Reading Levels – So What?

The last post gave you a quick and dirty summary of the three reading levels. You now know that we all have three different reading levels. So what?  How can you use this information?  Let’s look at three advantages to understanding these reading levels.

1. Choosing a Just-Right Book

Many teachers use the term “just-right book” to describe an appropriate independent reading book for a student. Scads of research shows the importance of independent reading. Programs and incentives to get kids reading independently abound in classrooms throughout the nation. The trick is independent reading requires a book on a child’s independent reading level. If a book is too hard, it often frustrates the student, takes too long to read and is not fully understood and appreciated. If a book is too easy, a student is likely to get bored and this text will not help move a child towards the next level. So your understanding of what is meant by an independent reading level will enable you to support your child as he chooses a “just-right” book.

This is more important than you think because so often, in these grades, kids choose books that “look good”. They see the advanced readers carrying around long, enticing texts and want to choose books simply for appearance. Believe me, teachers struggle with this all the time. Bottom line is that if your child is an average or struggling reader, independent book choice is crucial. A future post will outline some things to consider as you help your kids pick “just-right” books.

2. Enhancing Your Communication with Teachers

A little knowledge can go a long way. I know how easy it is for teachers to forget that most parents do not know “teacher speak”. Like other professionals, teachers speak a language all their own. Professional lingo includes a ton of acronyms and terms that sound like Greek to people who don’t work in Education.

If you understand these terms, you can confidently ask your child’s teacher about reading levels and use them to your advantage. Not only will  knowing your child’s  independent reading level help you find books your child can read and enjoy, it will also enable you to understand his growth as the year goes on. Likewise, having a sense of  your child’s instructional level will enable you to ferret out some texts that you may want to read with your child to reinforce vocabulary and strategies that will strengthen his comprehension.

3. Understanding Assessments

There are certain assessments that provide teachers with a student’s independent and instructional level. Make it your business to know the kinds of reading assessments your child will be taking. Knowing and tracking your child’s growth in terms of his or her reading level provides one way to monitor progress.

One important point – there are several leveling systems in place. Some use numbers and some use letters. It’s not necessary for you to understand the leveling system. Simply ask the teacher to interpret it for you and give you an idea of what to look for when you are roaming around the library, a bookstore, or the internet helping your child choose a book.

Reading levels provide appropriate guidelines. Used as such, they can play a helpful role in your child’s reading life.

Reading levels aren’t the most exciting topic in the world, but I’m hoping you find this information beneficial as the school year unfolds. My next post will give you some tips for helping kids choose a “just-right book” and then we’ll be on to some more engaging topics.

About Rita K.

Educator and Certified Reading specialist
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