Independent Reading: Using the Goldilocks Method to Determine If Your Child Is Reading an Appropriate Book

There is never an age that is too young to encourage independent reading. Even the youngest child benefits from “quiet reading time” where they can page through books, look at the pictures, and create a story in their heads—or recall stories they’ve heard before. But as a child gets older, parents need to insure that their child is reading books that are on the child’s reading level—books that are appropriate both in comprehension and in word awareness.

Independent reading: a quick and easy way to learn if your child can actually read the book she's reading -- read this before going to the library or bookstore


While there are many official testing devices available, including the widely used Scholastic Reading Inventory, which assigns a child a Lexile® Score, parents can use several easy techniques when they’re in the library or at a book store to quickly assess if a child has selected a book that he can read. One such method was created by Marilyn M. Ohlhausen and Mary Jepsen.

The Goldilocks’ Guide to Selecting a Book for Independent Reading

Just like Goldilocks found things to be “too easy, too hard, and just right,” so can you and your child analyze a book. While trying to find a “just right” book ask

  • Have you read this book many times already?
  • Do you understand this story well?
  • Do you know every word?
  • Does it seem too easy?

If the answers are “yes,” this selection falls into the too easy category.

  • Are there more hard words than easy words?
  • Is the book confusing you as you read it?
  • When you read, do the words sound choppy?
  • Will you need help to read this book?

If the answers are “yes”, this book is too hard to be read alone.

  • Is this book new to you, or have you read it only a few times?
  • Do you understand most of the book without help?
  • Do you know most of the words?
  • Can you read it pretty smoothly?

If the answers are “yes”, then this book is just right for your child.

The Goldilocks strategy works very well with children who are reading young children’s books independently. It’s helpful to stop your child a few pages in and ask these questions; if you find the book to be too difficult, you can jump in and read it together. If you find the book too easy, allow your child to enjoy it, then encourage him to select a more challenging read next.

Feature image courtesy of Stuart Miles /
mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel ( and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2015, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.

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