5 Finger Test Helps Kids Pick a Book

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Teach your child how to find a book at their reading level using this simple test with your five fingers.

I recommend using and teaching your child the “Five Finger Rule.” This is a method for deciding if your child is able to comprehend the book– if the book is at a just right reading level for them, too easy, or too challenging.

You’ll need to practice this with your children many times before they’re able to do it on their own.

Five Finger Test

Sample Script for Parents

“You have 5 fingers. Wiggle those.

Open the book to the middle – any page.

Start reading. When you come to a word you don’t know, that’s okay. Hold up one finger for that word.

If you come to any other words you don’t know, hold up one finger for each word. Stop at the end of the page.”

Now, you can explain that they will know if it’s a just right book because of how many fingers they’re holding up.

0 fingers is an easy book.

1 – 5 fingers is a just-right book.

More than 5 fingers is a challenge book to save for later.

Easy Books

0 Fingers

If your child reads the page and has zero fingers held up it’s a too easy book. But, don’t worry if your child wants to read easy books. Kids need to read books that are comfortable and easy. Remind him or her to mix in just right books, too.

Just Right Books

1 – 5 Fingers

If when your child does the 5 Finger Test, she holds up between one and five fingers, the book is considered “just-right” book. This is a term coined by literacy specialists meaning that the book is a good fit for your child, that it’s at an instructional level for your child. These are the best books to choose most of the time.

Challenge Books

5+ Fingers

If your child ends up with more than five fingers held when doing the 5 finger test, it’s not a good book choice for him. More than five fingers mean that the book is too hard. I like to tell kids to save for later and help them choose a just-right book.


Parents, remember that the five finger test is a new and tricky skill for your kids. Practice with them until you’re confident that they can do this on their own. In other words, until they can select just-right books by themselves.

Happy reading!

5 finger test

Also read:
Learning to Read: Word Attack Strategies Beyond “Sound It Out”
Pressured to Read: What to Do If Your Child is “Behind”

Books for 5- and 6- year olds
Books for 7-year olds
Books for 8-year olds
Books for 9-year olds
Books for 10-year olds
Books for 11-year olds
Books for 12-year olds
YA Books

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  1. I was taught this by my Munchkin’s teacher, but I wasn’t sure if it was 5 fingers for the whole book or just the page. Thanks for clarifying.