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.