We know that nonfiction books are an essential part of any classroom. That “just right” nonfiction text helps naturally inquisitive students feed their curiosity and expand their knowledge of the world around them.

    But matching readers to their correct level for each book may sometimes feel like a moving target. Independent reading level is determined by accuracy, fluency, and comprehension, and if one of these components is missing, the child is not working at his or her independent reading level.

    To help you and your students pick that the perfect book to engage their interest, we’ve gathered our favorite nonfiction book lists for every reading level and 5 teacher-tested tips to make sure their chosen books are perfect match.

1.   Give your students opportunities to self-select nonfiction texts. High-interest series such as Ripley’s Believe It or Not or Scholastic Discover More can encourage children to actively engage the material by sharing interesting images or favorite passages with their classmates.

2.   Listen to your students read when they begin a new nonfiction book to determine if they are able to read the words accurately and fluently. The five-finger test—making sure your readers encounter no more than five challenging words on a given page—is an effective strategy to make the determination.

3.   Get to know your students’ interests and backgrounds to help you understand how much their background knowledge is aiding their comprehension. Try this student interest survey as a place to begin.

4.   Talk with students frequently. Ask them to summarize what they’ve read to determine if they are putting together and remembering important information from the text. Check out these 10 ready-to-print graphic organizers for nonfiction texts to help you quickly assess your students.

5.   Use students’ reading level as a starting point, not an end point. If your student is reading independently at level L, but has a lot of background knowledge on a particular subject, he or she may be able to read a Level P on that topic. Knowing that history can help you steer students to the right books!