Just Right Books for Beginning Readers

To level or not to level-that's a question I see over and over on Facebook and Instagram.  Before I share how I use just right books, let's talk about using levels with caution.  Fountas and Pinnell are very clear about the place of levels in the classroom.
Support beginning readers at home and school by offering them just right books. How to keep it simple and organized and suggestions for low cost ways to begin collecting just right books.

Trying to climb the “level ladder” is not what reading is about. It should be about enjoyment and discovery. Focusing too much on text levels can cause problems. Fountas and Pinnell created the F&P Text Level Gradient ™ to be used as a teacher’s tool for assessment and instruction. The levels aren’t meant to be shared with the children or parents.

Click here to read the article, "A Level is a Teacher's Tool, NOT a Child's Label".

While well intentioned, limiting students to text by level creates more harm than good, and we end up creating the opposite of our goal.  Yes, kids don't know how to select just right books.  They don't know how to add, so we teach them.  We can teach them this, too.
BUT, younger readers do need access to a high volume of just right books and the library shelves are not exactly overflowing with Level E books. We can supplement their self-selected classroom library texts with just right books in class and at home.

Over time with Scholastic bonus points, Donors Choose, and through my own purchases, I've built up a collection of just right books to share with students.  They keep a bag in their book box and a bag for home.  We do a big book swap out on Fridays.  It's the only way I can keep up with it and stay sane!


Want to create your own Donors Choose project for just right books? Click here to see a list of sets I've added to my just right book tubs and here to read about suggestions for getting Donors Choose projects funded.



For levels A-E, I depend heavily on sets of leveled readers.  For levels F and up, there are more "real" books available.  I keep an eye out at Half Price Books for titles to add to these tubs, too.
Before I start sending books home with students who are reading below grade level expectations, I speak with families first.  I use language like "currently reading at mid first grade expectations" and talk about how to use our just right book and sight words to support their reader. THIS WORKS Y'ALL.  And yes, I have lost some books here and there.  I'd rather lose a book than a reader. This makes my job easier, and more importantly, working in partnership with families helps our students grow even more.

I label the books with animal names that start with the correlating guided reading level. I've never had a kid question why they were reading a camel instead of a hyena. When a student is getting ready to move into the next level, I start mixing the sets to ease them into it.
For storage, I use the Trofast frame from Ikea. Even without the actual frame, the tubs ($3) themselves are fantastic.  With the lids ($1.50), they stack nicely and are really stable.  Or you could easily put them in plastic storage bins from Walmart or Target.
I'm always looking for more books to add to our just right books! What are your go to sources for beginning reader books?

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