I’ve been asked how to best supplement a reading program with additional books and texts. This question assumes that you HAVE a reading program, the nature of which varies considerably across this country. Wake County, the largest school district in North Carolina, uses a Balanced Literacy approach, which relies upon leveled texts (such as the Fountas and Pinnell system). (And yes, Wake County has beefed up its phonics instruction due to poor student performance.) Other districts use basal readers, as do many home school classes.
Regardless of the program or method being used, supplementary texts are often beneficial if students need additional practice on certain skills, want to read more on topics of interest, or benefit from materials to read at home. I use Raz-Kids combined with a Reading A-Z license to provide a vast supply of additional online books. For families without internet access, teachers can print take-home books from these sites. Other sources of inexpensive books include used book stores, thrift shops, and donations from school families. Public libraries offer free books and magazines, but may be difficult for some families to access due to work schedules or transportation issuessupplementar.
I always suggest that my students use a five-finger rule for determining (roughly) if a book is at their reading level. They hold up one finger for each missed word on a beginning paragraph (although they may exclude proper nouns). If they reach five fingers, chances are good that the book is too hard.