Browsing, Previewing, and Selecting

Students do not select books mindlessly. They have clear preferences, not only in the types of books that they like to read, but also in the way that those books are selected. To capitalize on student interests and strategies, educators must study students’ independent reading choices, their selection strategies of texts, and what they value and like in a book (Swartz & Hendricks, 2000; Reutzel & Gali, 1998).

Enhance how patrons select books by modeling browsing, previewing, skimming, and selecting that “just right” book. Good readers find books by browsing the shelves and conducting an internal dialogue about what they know about themselves as readers (Grimes, 2008).

Get Into The Act

Students need easy ACCESS to books they want to read.
Students need a CHOICE in what they read.
Students need TIME in class to read.
Students need to TALK about what they read.
Moen, Christine Boardman, 2007

Explicit Modelling

Teach students to self-select book that will help them grow by modeling how to browse, preview, skim, and use guidelines for selections. Sanacore (1999) and Grimes (2008) found that students benefit from the observation of a think aloud process when educators choose books. The students will also benefit from the observation of the abandonment of a book by their teacher (Johnson & Blair, 2003; Sanacore, 1999). Sharon Grimes, author of Reading Is Our Business, models effective browsing using a think-aloud (page 14).

The following picture books, Stella Louella's Runaway Book (Lisa Campbell Ernst) and Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians (Jackie Mims Hopkins), were written to inspire conversation of the selection process with primary readers.

Social Interactions

Students’ book selections are influenced by social interactions: the relationship between students and teachers and/or librarians, peer recommendations, and informal book discussions (Palmer, Codling & Gambrell, 1994; Kragler & Nolley, 1996).

To capitalize on students’ interests, teachers should consider the use of literature circles, book clubs, or discussion forums. During these activities, students are given time to share what they know, what they have read, discuss books read in common and recommend new titles.

  • Booksprouts - A FREE online community for book clubs where students can share reading experiences.
  • Voicethreads - a collaborative, multimedia slideshow that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to leave comments in 5 ways - using voice (with a mic or phone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam).


Proficient browsers engage in an internal dialogue when selecting a book.
  • Have I read and liked other books by the same author?
  • Do I enjoy this genre of books?
  • Is this book in a series? If so, do I need to have read the previous titles to understand this book?
  • Do I have a personal connection to this book?
  • Is this book recommended by my friends?

Physical Attributes

The attributes may be the determining factor for its rejection or selection.
  • Key words in title
  • Cover
  • Visual Features – Illustrations, diagrams, etc.
  • Layout
  • White Space
  • Length of book and chapters


Children need at least thirty minutes a day to read books they can read, preferably of their choosing (Calkins,2001).

Book Reviews

Online reviews can influence students’ choice.
Student Created Reviews

Readability and Interest Guidelines

Strategies for determining book readability and student reading interests are listed on the Wiki page Book Suitability.