Build Reading Confidence With Hi/Lo Books!

Boy Reading a book

Posted on December 1, 2021

by Megan Roseberry

Hi/Lo (High/Low) Books is a term used to describe high-interest books at a lower reading level. Reading Rockets describes Hi/Lo books as books that “offer highly engaging age-appropriate subject matter at a low reading level for struggling readers.” These books are intended to “help build reading fluency, vocabulary, background knowledge, and interest in reading.”

Characteristics Of Hi/Lo Books

Hi/Lo books are characterized by certain elements that interest readers while also helping them build reading skills and confidence. Reading Rockets stresses that the “best materials for struggling readers are carefully written, edited, and designed to provide supports for struggling readers.” The Reading Rockets website provides a list of the supports found in hi-lo books. This list includes:  

  • A compelling storyline and credible characters
  • Topics and issues with which readers can make personal or emotional connections
  • Careful introduction and reinforcement of difficult vocabulary and concepts (difficult words should be used more than once and presented in a way that makes its meaning clear)
  • Straightforward plot development (avoiding flashbacks, time shifts, and confusing changes in points of view)

Reading Rockets stresses that another component of quality hi/lo books is effective characterization. “Readers need to care what happens to the characters and how their problems will be resolved in the story… Novels for struggling readers need clearly defined and differentiated characters. This does not require a lot of description; it does require that the characters are clearly distinguishable from one another. 

Illustrations can also be a significant support for hi-lo books, according to Reading Rockets. “Good hi/lo reading materials contain enough illustrations to help in comprehending the text. Not only do illustrations support the storyline, they also “pad” the text, so that the book appears longer but can still be read quickly.”

Lastly, Reading Rockets highlights that in hi/lo books, the “text may look the same as in any other book, but space between lines in a hi/lo text is wider and words are not broken at the end of lines in order to facilitate return eye sweep and avoid impediments in fluency.”

What Books Can Be Considered Hi/Lo Books?

Frequently, graphic novels fall into this category. Some popular hi/lo graphic novels include the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney and the Babymoouse and Squish series by Matt Holm and Jennifer Holm. Certain chapter books are also considered hi/lo texts. The Judy Moody, Cam Jansen, and Magic Tree House book series are good choices! Also, don’t forget poetry! Try the works of Jack Prelutsky and J. Patrick Lewis. These works, and others, are recommended by Reading Rockets.

In addition, certain biographies, such as the picture book biographies by David Adler and Kathleen Krull, and other nonfiction texts can be considered hi/lo books. Reading Rockets elaborates on the excitement garnered from nonfiction books and biographies. “Children are naturally fascinated by the lives of real people and the world around them, so nonfiction books are a good place to start with books for struggling and reluctant readers. Start with what a child is already interested in – sports, space travel, bugs, inventors.” Consider books “with lots of visuals (photographs, charts, diagrams, illustrations) and short text (including infographics and captions).”

Ask your librarian for additional titles. We can also show you how to search our catalog to find and request hi/lo books!

Megan Roseberry

Megan Roseberry

Megan, Community Engagement Librarian, Unicorn Fanatic, The Most Sparkly Librarian – any of these titles will do. When not bringing the Van Halen to early literacy classes or spreading the joy of reading to youngsters throughout the community, one can find her enjoying copious amounts of carbohydrates, binge-watching random television shows and movies, pretending to be a professional photographer, dancing around and singing when no one is watching (okay, maybe when people are watching, too), and thoroughly enjoying life with a never-ending smile!
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