Evaluating Chapter & Picture Books for Literacy Instruction

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  • 0:00 Literacy Instruction
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

How can literacy teachers evaluate books for their students to read? How can they choose the best picture and chapter books for their classroom? In this lesson, we'll answer these questions by looking at how to evaluate books' content and presentation.

Literacy Instruction

Ravi is a literacy coach for a K-8 school. That means that it's his job to help the literacy teachers of all grades from kindergarten all the way up through 8th grade. As part of his job, Ravi needs to evaluate resources to determine whether to order them for the classrooms in his school. But that's easier said than done, as there's a big difference between what a kindergartner reads and what an 8th grader reads.

Literacy instruction focuses on teaching students how to read and write. To do their jobs effectively, Ravi needs to make sure that literacy teachers have chapter and picture books for their students to read. But how should he evaluate the books in order to choose the right ones?

There's a big difference between a picture book and a chapter book, but there are a few questions that Ravi can ask to make sure that all the books he gets for his school are the best possible resources. Let's look closer at questions about content and questions about presentation that Ravi can use to evaluate picture and chapter books.


Ravi needs to assess the quality of picture and chapter books before purchasing them. He wants to start by evaluating their content, or what a book is about. There are three key questions he'll want to ask whether he's looking at a picture book for the kindergarten class or a chapter book for the 8th grade class. They are:

1) Is the book a good reading level?

Clearly, the answer to this will depend on what class Ravi is buying for. If he's buying for a first grade class, he probably isn't going to be buying chapter books. But there are students of many different reading levels in each class, so he'll want to make sure that there are multiple levels of books in every classroom.

When looking at reading level, Ravi will want to examine both vocabulary and sentence structure. These are two indicators of reading level. He wants to make sure that books are somewhat challenging for students, but not too hard.

2) Is the book high interest?

Some of the boys in Ravi's school have a hard time finding books they like to read. They're interested in sports, but there aren't enough sports books to go around. This is an example of something that is high interest.

High interest books are especially difficult to find at low levels. For example, there are some 7th grade students who are reading well below the 7th grade level, but the books that align with their reading level are mostly on topics that aren't very interesting to kids that age. Those that are high interest but low reading level are in high demand.

3) Does the book offer robust chances for discussion?

Some books are pretty simple and don't really offer much chance for discussion. On the other hand, some books offer rich themes and questions that allow students to discuss the work.

For example, a picture book that Ravi really likes involves a little kid who doesn't understand what a memory is. He goes around asking everyone he knows what a memory is, and they all give him different answers. This book is a great starting place for students to discuss what memory is, things they remember, and how to describe memory to others. Even though it's only a picture book, it gives students a really good opportunity for discussion.

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