We do not, however, need complicated algorithms, expensive materials, or even the latest app for that endeavor. In fact, we each carry with us every day a most effective tool - the five fingers on one hand - which can be used at any moment to employ the Five-Finger Rule for Text Readability. When a child chooses a book, just follow this procedure:
You'll know the suitability of the overall book based on how many fingers you use by the time the child reaches the bottom of the page:
- Direct the child to read (aloud) the first full page of the book's text;
- As he reads, subtly (so as not to intimidate him) keep note with one finger each time he cannot decode a word at all or struggles quite a bit to get it.
And that's all there is to it - a "diagnostic test" accomplished in a matter of minutes in a very low-key manner using something you always have with you!
- 0-1 Finger: The child's reading ability is above the level of the book. That doesn't mean he shouldn't read it - there is intellectual and emotional value in reading even "easy" books - but it won't stretch his abilities;
- 2-3 Fingers: The book is at the child's "instructional level." In other words, this book will be an appropriate challenge without being overwhelming;
- 4-5 Fingers: The child is not ready to read this book independently, as it is above his current reading ability. You might save it for a later time, or if the child is really interested, simply use it as a parent-led read-aloud or (perhaps) try tackling it in "buddy-reading" format with the parent.