LEVELED READING QUESTIONS? Keep Reading!
In elementary school, each child is developing on his/her own continuum and it is ineffective to assess a child’s strengths as a reader by his/her reading level alone. Progress developed over time is far more informative. To develop strength as a reader, children need lots of time to read lots of books that are “just right” for their abilities.
We use the Guided Reading leveling system created by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. It is a precise reading level system for books. This detailed, alphabetic system has several levels within each grade level. For example, guided reading levels J through N. This allows teachers to tailor their reading program more accurately to a wide range of reading abilities. Each book is carefully evaluated prior to being leveled and teacher input was taken into consideration in the leveling process.
Please help your child select books that you are 100% confident your child can read independently with ease. The results of this important, careful book selection work promises to be well worth it!
Scholastic’s Book Wizard online is a great resource with an impressive database of titles. You can use this site to check the level of any book by selecting “Guided Reading” from the ‘Select a Reading Level System’ drop down menu and typing the title into the search field. There is also an advanced search available allowing you to generate lists of books at specific levels.
FAQ #1 What is a leveled Library?
A leveled library is a large set of books organized in levels of difficulty from the easy books that an emergent reader might enjoy to the longer, complex books that advanced readers will select.
FAQ #2 How are books assigned a letter/level? What Are Some Criteria for Leveling Books?
No single aspect or characteristic of text can be used to evaluate reading material. In placing a text along a gradient of difficulty, many factors are considered. The Fountas and Pinnell leveling system coincides with the alphabet, A-Z.
Length — Consider the number of pages, the number of words, and the number of lines on the page. Books forbeginners will have just one or two lines on a page.
Layout— Beginners need texts with a large font and clear spaces between words and lines. Sentences begin on the left and print is clearly separated from pictures. In more complex books, sentences begin in the middle of lines or are carried over onto the next page. Fonts become smaller.
Structure and Organization— Early books have simple plots and some repetition. Some books use repeating episodes or complex plots organized chronologically. As books become more challenging, more interpretation will be needed.
Illustrations— Easier books provide pictures to support the reader in gaining meaning and solving words. Picture support gradually decreases as you move up the gradient of difficulty.
Words —Beginning books use high-frequency words, text with regular spelling words, and content words reinforced by pictures. More challenging texts use multi-syllabic words and a wider range vocabulary to express meaning.
Phrases and Sentences — The gradient begins with very simple sentences and goes on to include longer, more complex sentences with embedded clauses.
Literary Features— Consider the complexity of the ideas. What must readers understand about the characters, setting, and plot to read this book with understanding? Literary features such as flashbacks or metaphors may introduce a challenge.
Content and Theme —Books for young children will focus on topics and themes that are familiar to them. Complexity gradually increases to ideas and topics that children would not experience in everyday lives. Some sophisticated themes require maturity for understanding and may mean that a book is more challenging, even if other factors make it seem easy.
FAQ #3: Will having my child read harder books help them get stronger at reading?
No. In fact, exactly the opposite can happen!
It is critically important that children not read books that are too difficult for them. Research has shown that reading books that are at the “frustration level” can actually stunt a readers’ growth, or send them backwards in their development.
When in doubt, help your child select books that feel “friendly/familiar” to other books they have enjoyed. Also, check out series books, not only is it fun to follow familiar characters through new adventures and experiences, but reading through a book series can help readers grow!
FAQ #4: My child really can read harder books though- and wants to read them! They can read all the words on the page without making mistakes. They even seem to know what is going on in the story. Are you sure I shouldn’t give them much harder books?
Great question, but proceed with caution.
“Harder books” often deal with themes and issues that are more mature. These texts, while perhaps “readable” or “decodable” by your child, may not be developmentally appropriate for your child’s age. Also, please keep in mind that just because readers can read each word on a page smoothly and without error, does not mean that they are able to comprehend the sophisticated themes and layered plot lines that these texts may contain.
Fountas, Irene, and G.S. Pinnell. Matching Books to Readers: A Book List for Guided Reading, K3. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational, 1999.