Tag Archives: Reading level

More on Reading Levels, Finding the Right Book

So, how do I find the right book for my child? I don’t want a book that is too difficult and will halt progress. Iblack-and-white-28791_1280 don’t want something too easy that will not challenge and encourage growth.

This is a question every mom considers when making plans to help her child learn to read. I have some ideas I would like to share with you. They are strategies I have used in the classroom, and I still consider them in my home, when schooling my own children.

I think we all agree that no matter how far behind or how far ahead of the “average” child our child is, we must start at the skill level they have mastered. Moving ahead when a child is not ready will confuse him. Lagging behind when a child is ready to move forward will leave them feeling unengaged. In either case, they may question if learning is worth the effort. We want to avoid both situations and build a love for reading.

Fortunately, finding a books for your child is not a difficult task. We are going to visit two ways to get your child matched with the right  books. The first is by perusing the library. Take your child to a section of the library that you think would meet his level and interests. In our library, we have a place for picture books, children’s chapter books and nonfiction, teen chapter books, and adult novels and non-fiction.

I like to require my children to choose something from both the fiction and non-fiction to check out. I ask them what topic they would like to read about and help them find that section. I give them ample time to pull books from the shelf about their chosen topic. Sometimes another topic attracts them and that is okay. I encourage them to read a page or two from any section of the book. If is is too hard for them to read and they do not understand100_1031 what they are reading, they can put it back. This is not a strict rule, because my oldest has learned to use Google and the dictionary to look up words, concepts and background information to help her understand the book. These are books that are great for instructional reading, reading that includes new concepts and vocabulary in a new context.

However, there is also a time for books that are right on your child’s level. These books are meant to be enjoyed. Your child should not struggle with vocabulary or concepts in these books. With these books you will most likely discuss things like plot, characters, and setting or use these books to teach concepts like cause and effect and other reading skills. It is much easier to teach these reading skills with books they are familiar and comfortable with. Checking for understanding daily will ensure your child has books suited for his comprehension level.

Another way to ensure your child is reading books on his independent level is to get a sampling of different leveled books and have discussions after reading to assess comprehension and find the level he best understands when reading solo. Your library probably shows the reading level of books in their card catalog, and you may be able to search it by reading level. If not, you can use the Scholastic Book Wizard to help you find books by whatever reading level measure is easiest for you. I find that grade level equivalent is easiest for most.  For a book that has a Grade Level Equivalent of 2.6, it would be an independent reader for a typical child in his second year and 6 month of reading, but children vary greatly. This chart might be helpful in translating the correlation of the other reading level measures for you. Choose a starting point for your assessment and then choose books on either side of that level. If you decide to start with leve 3.0, then check out books between 2.5-3.5. If you are not familiar with reading levels, your guess might be off quite a bit in either direction, but before long, you will be able to pick up a book and tell its level by reading a page or two. When I was teaching, I liked to choose one fiction and one non-fiction to assess reading level comprehension. It provided me with more information about strengths of the child’s reading. To read more about choosing books and the discussion used to assess comprehension read my other article on Reading Levels. I start the discussion about halfway down the page.


If the library is not convenient or you simply can’t wait to get started you can visit Reading A-Z‘s site and pull down 1-2 samples from different levels, using the free trial. You can download a couple to start with and if you find the chosen books are not the right level after your discussion, you can download more, either above or below the level you started. Once you have discovered his new reading level, you can decide whether re-evaluate once a quarter or in whatever intervals you are comfortable with. You may be happy simply seeing him read more difficult text as you make trips to the library or assign him books for his learning.  If you choose to evaluate, you might want to get him involved in setting goals of where he would like to be in 3-4 months. He may think that he wants to see progress sooner. You can assess more often if he is comfortable.

It doesn’t matter what method you choose. Both of these methods work. I have used both with great success. Many times a child will tell you a book is to easy or too hard simply by putting it aside. Be sensitive to the choices your child makes and continue with informal assessments of comprehension. You will soon be able to pick out books that fit both his interest and skill level. I guarantee he will think you have some magical skills in finding the right book for him.

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Reading Levels

103_0024Many 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.

boy-160174_640I’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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