With the abundance of books available to young readers, it is often difficult
for them to select books that best meet their needs, whether that need is to
find a book to answer content related questions, fulfill classroom requirements,
or be read for pleasure. When students browse for books it is certain that they
do give thought to the process. What is less certain is whether they recognize
the process they engage in and whether they know how such things as peer
recommendations, book discussions, and the book's physical attributes contribute
to and affect their book selection decisions. In providing students with
strategies for book browsing and giving them the opportunity to do so, teachers
not only help students to understand themselves as readers, they also arm
students with the tools to make more informed reading selections.
Strategies for Book Browsing
Helping students to become aware of how they make their book selections and
introducing them to some strategies for browsing books can help to support their
selection process. Think about your own selection process. Bring in a few books
that you have selected to read as well as a few that you opted not to read. Talk
about and model what you did when you were book browsing. Share your reasons for
choosing one book but putting aside another. A few things to think about:
- When you picked up a book, what attracted you to it? Cover? Length?
- When you opened it, what did you do? Did you fan through the pages to see
if anything caught your eye? Did you look for a table of contents or index?
Did you try to read a page or two to see if you were comfortable with the
- Did you have a particular purpose in mind when you were looking for books?
Were you looking for specific information? Looking for a book to read for
pleasure? Looking for books by a familiar author?
Once you have introduced students to your own book browsing process, you
might want to focus on individual pieces of your process, perhaps by doing
mini-lessons where warranted. Match book browsing strategies to purpose. If, for
example, students are book browsing to find resources most useful for a specific
topic or research need, begin with a mini-lesson about indices or the table of
Here are a few more strategies for book browsing.
- Ask students to get the 'feel' of a book by touching it, looking through
it. Does it match their reading mood or reading needs?
- Have students look at the vocabulary in the book. Can they read and
understand the text?
Direct students to focus on the book's visuals. Do they like the
illustrations? Do they find the photographs fascinating? Do the tables provide
the information they are seeking?
- Allow students time to browse. Encourage them to look more closely at
books that capture their interest. Have them read a few pages.
- Show students where to locate information such as the author's bio, the
title page, or reviews.
- Show students how to compare texts by looking at the information in
different books on the same topic? Is the information the same? Are the
formats and styles different or the same? Which books would they prefer to
Benefits of Book Browsing
Modeling and sharing book browsing strategies reaps many benefits,
particularly when students are regularly given the opportunity to browse and
select their own books. The following are just a few of those benefits.
- Self-selection of books is a positive step toward the production of
- Self-selecting books give students ownership of the books they read.
- Students are more motivated to read when they select their own books.
- Book browsing provides students with additional opportunities to read,
study, and evaluate texts.
- Students are more engaged with their own book selections, which translates
to improved reading processes.
- The interest in a book which generates its selection frequently enables
students to read books that have been determined to go beyond the student's
- Teachers can observe students' habits during book browsing and can also
note their selections. This better enables teachers to capitalize on students'
interests for other classroom activities and helps in the selection of books
for the classroom library.
- Students utilize and reinforce their knowledge and understanding of text
features and text structures.
- Students are introduced to and explore a variety of texts which are
selected with different reading purposes in mind.
- Students build a better sense of themselves as readers and increase their
understanding of their reading likes and dislikes.
For more on student self-selection strategies, go to
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 9912078. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.