Using the I-PICK Strategy in the Library

Our teachers LOVE the I-PICK strategy for finding good fit books.  I must say that it is a strategy that just makes sense.  It doesn’t focus on one aspect of locating a book that matches a reader and it adjusts to whatever the purpose is for finding a book whether it’s independent reading or reading with a partner.

The I-PICK strategy stands for:

  • I choose my book
  • Purpose: Why am a I choosing a book today?
  • Interest:  What are the things that I like or want to learn about?  What holds my attention?
  • Comprehend:  Do I understand what’s going on by reading the words and pictures?
  • Know:  Do I know enough of the words to understand what’s going on?

Students often learn this strategy in their classrooms, and I typically do a follow-up lesson in the library to build a connection that this is a strategy that goes beyond the classroom.  This year, it seems I’m doing this lesson with almost every grade.  I’m trying to build connection even beyond the school during our time together.

We start with a quick brainstorm of all of the places where we can find books.  Students have named places such as school library, public library, bookstores (Barnes & Noble and Avid Bookshop), yard sales, thrift shops, and online.  Then, I shared a story about my own visit to the bookstore this summer to choose a book.  I wove in several things that I see students do, but honestly, that I also do.  After each bullet point that I shared, we paused and asked: “Does that make this a good fit book for me?”  The answer was usually “no, not completely” because each of these bullets is a piece of the puzzle of finding a good fit book and they all work together in order to make the puzzle complete.


  • I went to Avid Bookshop to choose a chapter book, so I focused on that section of the store
  • I pulled a book off of the shelf that had a red cover because that’s my favorite color.  (The book happened to be Circus Mirandus)
  • I took the jacket off because there was a picture hiding underneath and I started to notice things like the flying girl, the mysterious man in a jacket and hat, the tent with a sun on it, etc.
  • I read the inside jacket flap about the book
  • I read the first three chapters of the book because they were short
  • All along the way, I stayed interested in the book.  I felt connected to what it was about.  I understood what was going on.
  • I bought the book and loved it!

I don’t want to pretend that the I-PICK strategy is a linear process because it’s not.  I don’t go from beginning to end of this strategy every time I choose a book.  I often bounce around in the process.  However, most of these pieces are usually there when I pick a book.  I don’t pick a book because it’s on my Lexile level.  I don’t choose a book because of how many points I get for the book.  I don’t choose a book because someone puts it on a list and tells me that I have to read it.  I choose my book because I’m genuinely interested in it and it speaks to my personality as a reader.  I think the I-PICK strategy surfaces some of the steps that readers often do and puts them into an easy to remember formula for readers to think about as they select books.

The purpose can always change.  Sometimes a reader may be looking for a book to read with a family member, so the independent comprehension or “knowing the words” doesn’t matter as much.  The interest step is always there no matter the purpose.  I want student to always seek books that interest them or spark their curiosity.

After our quick brainstorm and bookshop story on the carpet.  I moved students to tables.  On the tables are stacks of books pulled from all areas of the library.  The idea is for students to practice the IPICK strategy in a small setting first.  I know that not every student is going to find a book that interests them on the tables and that is totally ok.  I do let them move from table to table if they aren’t finding an interest.  Most students do find something because I choose such a variety, but some just don’t connect to what they see.  The teachers and I roam around and ask students about what is catching their eye and what they’ve done to see if it’s a good fit.  We might listen to them read a bit, talk about their interests, or share something they’ve learned from the book.

The next part is my favorite.  I ask students about what else interests them or what else they hope to take with them from the library today.  This is where I really get to focus the library on their individual interests.  Sometimes it’s very broad such as “a picture book” but sometimes it is extremely specific like “Pete the Cat”.  No matter what they say I direct them to a part of the library with their shelf marker to start searching for that good fit book using the IPICK strategy.

In the end, many students do in fact find books that fit their “reading level”, but more importantly find a book that they are excited about as they leave the library.  Some students still leave the library with a 300 page book even though they are reading on a lower level, but to me, it’s part of the process.  I can continue to share strategies for choosing books, talk about purpose, and most importantly help readers make a connection to the books that truly interest them.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a big step in how we each choose the books that we read.



Book Tasting with Kindergarten Using IPICK

ipick kinder (3) The Daily 5 I-PICK Strategy is a tool that many of our teachers use with students to find a “just right” book.  I’ve found this strategy to be so much better than using the 5-finger rule because it takes into account the many ways that we all choose books.  Usually 1st grade teachers are among the first to teach this strategy, but this year Kindergarten is very interested in what this might look like for our youngest students.

I-PICK stands for:

  • I choose my books
  • Purpose:  Why am I reading?
  • Interest:  What do I like to read?
  • Comprehend:  Do I understand?
  • Know:  Do I know most of the words?ipick kinder (4)

For Kindergarten, most of these pieces are obtainable except for knowing most of the words.  We’ve also been teaching the students the ways that we read which have included reading the pictures, reading the words, and retelling the story.

After some email conversation with a Kindergarten teacher, I proposed that we leave off the “know” part of IPICK for most of the students.  In class, students reviewed all of the steps of IPICK, but they specifically focused on “interest”.  Each student was interviewed about what they like to read and the teacher and other helpers wrote down about 3 interests for each student.  These cards were then given to me in the media center.

IPICK Kinder (10)I took each card and created a personal stack of books for each student.  I tried to find books that matched the interest and had plenty of pictures for students to practice reading pictures in a book.  I won’t lie.  This was very time consuming.  It took me about 45 minutes per class to pull books.  However, for the first time I could honestly say that I helped every student in a class find the books that they were interested in.

We kept our lesson very short.  On the floor, I reviewed IPICK and set our focus on comprehension.  We looked at some previously read books like Chalk to remind ourselves how to read the pictures in a book.  We also looked at informational text to practice reading a photograph and attempting to read the captions on pictures.

Just like in a cafe where you place your order and they call out your name, I called each student’s name and handed them the stack of books.  I reminded them that sometimes in restaurants we don’t like what we ordered and that it is ok to send it back or spit it out.  I reminded them that they would probably find several books that they liked but they needed to pick the one that tasted the best.IPICK Kinder (9)

As students sat at tables, the teachers and I walked around and had conversations with students about their books.  They told us what they were reading in the pictures.  If we saw a student quickly breezing through pages, we had a longer conversation and modeled how to slow down and carefully read a picture.  I loved how finding the book didn’t get in the way and we were actually able to have quality conversations rather than spending our time running around the shelves looking for books.

ipick kinder (6)In the end, each student chose a book.  When we asked them why they chose the book, interest was usually the winning reason.  It just reminded me of how important it is for students to find the books that they love to read even if it is Spongebob or Disney Princesses.  Every student left with a smile on their face.  I know that students missed the experience of actually finding the book on the shelf, but in the end, I felt like this experience was positive and rewarding in other ways for the students.  This is not something that I would or could do for every session, but I think it’s important for students to come to the library and find the perfect match of a book at least part of the time.ipick kinder (1)

IPICK: Choosing a Just Right Book

Every year at the beginning of the year, teachers ask me to do lessons on choosing a “just right book”.  While sometimes the focus is just on finding words that you know using the “five finger rule”, I like using the IPICK model because it is more inclusive of all of the pieces it takes to find a just right book.  IPICK stands for:

  • I=I choose my books
  • P=Purpose
  • I=Interest
  • C=Comprehend
  • K=Know most of the words  (this is really where the five finger rule fits)

Each year, I show videos of students singing a song about IPICK.  There are several examples on Youtube.  However, I know that our students are using this strategy in various classes, so when I heard a 3rd grade teacher reminding her students to use IPICK, I asked her if she had some students who might be interested in making a video.  Of course, they were very interested!

For about 45 minutes, 3 students and I met together.  We planned what we might do during the video.  Then, we started recording with an iPad.  After we filmed one take, we watched it and thought about what we needed to change.  Each time, the students made more and more suggestions and their video improved every time.  Here’s the video they created during our time together.


This year, I want to continue to listen for opportunities for students to participate in creating content in our library and be a bridge builder to get that content to a global audience for our students.