Many mothers taking their children out of the public school are very concerned about the reading level in which their child is reading. When getting started with homeschooling, there is a good place for this concern. Finding the right placement to start your child’s curriculum is an honest endeavor.
When my children were taken out of public school to homeschool, my oldest was reading high above her grade level in reading, and while she glommed onto math quickly, her interest and confidence lacked in math, nevertheless, she was right on track with her grade level standards. She also had a solid understanding of patterns of speech and was a natural speller. Most of what she was doing in school bored her. In making curriculum decisions, I had to keep these things in mind.
There are many placement tests all over the web to use. The free ones are harder to find than others. At www.iamhomeschooling.com, the author has compiled a list of free place placement test in both math and language arts.
However when we talk about reading level, there is an easy way to do this with access to leveled books. You can find out the level of books using your libraries database, and there are other websites like www.scholastic.com where you can find the level of a book in your home. Keep in mind that interest level is not the same as reading level. Some websites only give the levels of interest, or what age group is reading books just like this. Often this number is inflated for those that read the book aloud to their students, but if you are looking for an independent read for your child, you want to focus on the reading level.
You are going to be looking at two things Independent Reading Level and Instructional Reading Level. Independent Reading Level is what your child can decode and comprehend on their own without any help whatsoever, Instructional Reading Level is what they can decode 90-95 percent (or thereabouts) and comprehend up to 80%. This should be at a comfortable and fluid rate of reading, not stumbling over every other word. Public School would use a timer to measure this, but I think observation by the parent is sufficient. If they are stumbling over the words, it is too hard and they will not comprehend the text enough to appreciate the story or gain new information.
Neither of these levels matter in the grand scheme of things, but it gives you an idea of what books are well suited for your child. Honestly, I don’t worry about this at all when letting them choose reading books, I let my children find out for themselves. As I have gotten to know them as readers, observation helps me choose books for other subjects like science. Remember not to dwell on where they are at, but instead where they are going.
Find a starting point, a level you think they might be close too. You can do this by having them read a couple of books on different reading levels and go up or down as your observation tells you to do. There are many reading levels within one grade level. Grade Level Equivalent is probably the easiest level to understand and also the level that you will find most readily available. The number consists of a whole number for grade level, a decimal, followed by a number for month in the school year. So, a book with a 5.4 grade level equivalent is understood to be for a fifth grader in the fourth month of school.
Once you have found a starting point, have them read the book, silently or aloud, depending on preference, for a minute or two. Have them stop and tell you what they have read. If your child can tell you most of the main points with a couple of details perhaps even comments that show they can apply what they read to other situations or relate them to similar circumstances, chances are this is their independent level. Instructional level is found when the child reads and needs help comprehending some new information or vocabulary but most of the decoding is accurate. If you didn’t have your child read aloud at the beginning and you question why your child did not comprehend the text, you can have your child read aloud to see if there are decoding issues.
I’m less concerned about reading level than I am getting him interested in reading. I just let my child’s interest lead his reading and rarely do we do book reports. I rely mostly on discussion. I rarely have to ask questions. They are usually so excited about what they are reading that they are eager to share. One of my children is a relatively new reader and is reading above grade level, but sometimes he wanted to read books above his own level because of interest. When he fell in love with Oz, the books were not on his independent or instructional reading level. To accommodate his interest we used the audio version on LibriVox along with the book. Regardless of whether he comprehended everything or not, he understood more with the audio than he would have without. He love it so, he continued with the entire series.
Some are very adamant that a child should not have a book in his hand that is above his grade level. In my opinion it limits a child’s reading. My daughter was told once, that she couldn’t check out a book at the library that was above first grade level. Every child is differs in development and some find an interest early on that they choose to go after. When they do, growth follows. I know reading level was not a consideration when I was in school Library books were checked out on an interest basis only. I couldn’t have been happier.
Whether a child is on the grade level they are assigned to, is a lot less important than fostering a love for reading. Most veterans homeschooling moms will tell you that their children have all developed reading skills at different ages and in different methods, that standards do not always match individuals. I think that the change in philosophy was what allowed my son to go from reading on 1st grade level (in kinder) to reading 3rd grade level in a matter of months after beginning homeschool. The big difference was that he is allowed to follow his interest, and when he is interested, he is motivated to gain comprehension, through audio, videos, and through discussion after he reads.
Let interest be chosen over a designated reading level. Your child will likely put back a book that is too hard in exchange for one that he can read well enough to gain insight and be entertained. As long as he has an interest in reading on some topic, he will continue to develop his reading skills.
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