The Power of Choice and Home-Run Books

“Ok, class. Here’s your new book for the week. Everyone will read it and do a book report detailing the plot line, character arcs, and an alternative ending.”

For some of you, this sounds like a nightmare. You have no choice. No wiggle room. No fun. We all know the book reports where you were allowed to choose the book sparked more passionate projects from you and your classmates. Your classmates also exposed you to more titles that might be of interest.

(Much better than that time you all “read” The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.)

That’s what allowing children to make their own decisions does. It fosters a passion that just isn’t attainable through mandated reading. At DIBS for Kids, we value the power of choice and we strive to provide “home-run books” for all our students. Home-run books are the books that kids want to read over and over again. This idea of high-interest books stems from one DIBS student.ian-schneider-78431-unsplash.jpg

Jackson* was a student in our very first DIBS classroom. He was in kindergarten at the
time. Jackson would take DIBS books home sometimes but was always one of our lower-participating students. The next year, Jackson was in one of our first grade classrooms. He repeated his pattern of inconsistently taking home books and never really engaged with the program. By the time Jackson was in second grade, he thought he would escape DIBS and never need tread again, but he was mistaken. Second grade only had more DIBS books! More DIBS books means more choices, and one day Jackson chose a shark book. When Jackson came to school the next morning, he entered the classroom, set down his DIBS folder, and triumphantly raised his shark book in the air. “This shark book was awesome!” He checked it out for a second day. On the third day, Jackson was looking through the DIBS Bins and asked our founder (who was visiting the classroom), “are there any more shark books?”

The key to getting students excited about reading is providing them with books they want to read. We deliver books that kids LOVE to classrooms. Last month, we did a post counting down our Most Read DIBS Books of All TimeGreen Eggs and Ham only got second! What could possibly top that classic?

(We’ll give you a hint. The main character kind of looks like our founder – and has the same name!)

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It’s easy to foster that love for reading when you’re able to have home-run books in your house, but what happens to the 61% of students living in poverty who have no age-appropriate books in their homes? Often, they fall behind in school. Not being on the same academic level as their peers can be very discouraging. This is where high-low books come in handy. High-low books are books that are high-interest, but written at a low-level. These books can help third or fourth grade students develop an interest in reading even if they read at a first grade level. This interest in reading results in more time spent reading, which, in turn, leads to reading ability gains. One high-low book we keep in our DIBS Library was so popular, a student brought it to his new school!

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The Time Warp Trio series is written at a 3rd grade reading level, but captures the interest of students as old as 6th grade!

Another way to capture the interest of older readers is to offer them picture books. I know what you’re thinking. “Picture books are for young readers!” That’s not entirely true. Illustrated books offer a welcomed brain break from text-heavy textbooks. Megan Schielsman from University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center writes, “Some picture books are created with an older audience in mind. Others embody a level of sophistication in the text or art that offers intrigue for older children and/or teens even as they also appeal to a younger audience. Still others offer outrageous humor that can be enjoyed by readers of many ages.” She, then, offers this list of picture books for older children and teens!

• Visualize This: Books about the Arts
• Notes on a Page: Books about Music
• Into the Past: Books about History
• Theories and Revelations: Books about Math and Science
• Challenges and Change: Stories of Politics, Identity, and Understanding
• Seriously Surreal: Tales of (Im)possibility
• Over-the-Top: Sly and Sophisticated Humor
• All Cracked Up: Fractured Fairy Tales and Fables

So if you have a reluctant reader, try suggesting they choose a picture book – and make sure it’s their choice! After all, it is National Picture Book Month!


*Student’s name has been changed for privacy reasons.



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Hi! My name is Reina Cloyd! I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA Member serving as the Marketing Associate for DIBS for Kids this year. I love reading. I love learning. I’m currently a graduate student at UNO.
Between work and school, I can be found on the couch watching baking shows, crafting shows, and Criminal Minds with my wonderful husband and our pets.

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