Looking for a surefire way to increase student connection and engagement through reading? These helpful hints that will help you find the perfect book or passage.


Mentor texts can move mountains — pairing literacy with new learning will drive home fresh concepts for students of all ages. Like the magnitude of their impact, the effort required to ensure you’re choosing the perfect text is tremendous. Here are five ways to make sure your selection is more than sufficient.

1. Think about the skill of focus. For example, if it is comparing and contrasting the experience of characters, ensure their part in the story is front and center. It may take a bit of time to build your collection of books, but it makes all the difference when you have a few on hand that lend themselves to showcasing specific skills. Having a collection of four to five allows you to select books based on what you know about your students and can support the opportunity to practice repeatedly utilizing quality text.

2. Attempt a booklist online search. Often, new and noteworthy texts are written to align to standards, skills, or topics. Many educators have put together lists that can be helpful leading you in the right direction. It may take a couple searches to find a few that could work, but take advantage of technology and its collaborative opportunities.

3. Ensure the content you cover is cross-curricular. For example, if the the skill or strategy you are teaching is utilizing text features to support deeper understanding, and in science students are studying natural disasters, find a mentor text that includes text features in books on natural disasters. The more connections we can make for our students through book selection, the more relevance they develop in a skill. Also, remember there are many literary texts that contain nonfiction elements (e.g. biographies, historical accounts, etc.).

4. Find texts that lend themselves to social-emotional development. Developmentally, students need explicit teaching and models that provide them strategies and paths to cope in real life. When students can see themselves or peers through the text, they are able to apply central messages to their own lives.

5. Be confident in your selection. Often, it takes a few read throughs to determine whether or not a mentor text truly aligns with the skills and strategies we want students to learn. If it is your first couple times sharing the text, it can be helpful to utilize sticky notes to remind yourself when you want to stop and expand for think alouds.

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