How to Find Books at My Child's Reading Level at Home: A Guide for Parents
Are you overwhelmed with understanding your child's reading level? Or stressed about finding appropriate books for your child's level at home?
Finding the right books at home to foster reading growth can be tricky! And school districts use different systems to determine children's reading levels. Some use numbers, some use letters, and some are color-coded with numbers. No wonder it all feels so foreign!
And once you know their level numbers, letter, or color, now what do you do?
We all want our children to develop a love of reading. We know how essential reading is for their entire educational career and beyond, but the last thing we want is for them to become struggling readers. How do we keep up on this at home, ensure that they are on track in their reading, and that we are challenging them with the right books?
First, take a deep breath and know that many parents come to me with the same struggle and concern, and I am here to help!
In this blog, I will explore how to determine your child's reading level, help you find the right books for them, and give you ways to support them in their reading progress...in plain English!
How to Determine Your Child's Appropriate Reading Level
First, one of the best ways to determine your child's reading level is to work with their teacher. Your child's teacher assesses them often and finds their reading levels throughout the school year to game plan their instruction. Therefore, your child's teacher can provide information about your child's reading abilities, including their current reading level and any areas of struggle.
Assessments to Determine Your Child's Reading Level Yourself
If you want to find their reading level at home by yourself, you can hire a reading tutor like myself to do an assessment, find your child's reading gaps, and get them up to speed. Click here to register for a FREE Reading Assessment with me, take out the guesswork, and start the tutoring process today!
Or you can use something quick and simple like the San Diego Quick Assessment. This assessment is known for pretty accurately estimating a child's reading ability at a particular grade level. Start by showing your child the word list for a grade a couple of grade levels below your child's current grade level. When they get a word wrong, mark it on your master list. If they get one error, it means they are independent at that level. If they get two errors, they are instructional at that level, and three or more errors mean the level is too hard for them (frustration), and once you reach their frustration level, you can stop. (Keep scrolling to learn how finding these 3 reading levels can build your child's reading instruction).
Why do we have reading levels anyways?
Knowing students' reading levels helps teachers place children into suitable material to develop your child's reading skills appropriately. Leveled reading is a way to measure a child's ability to read the text and places a child on a level that is most effective for making progress in their reading.
It's important to realize that the levels help create instruction most beneficial to a child, whether they struggle or are advanced readers. Science shows that placing a child on their instructional reading level, using scaffolding, and giving appropriate support will help them learn and grow best. With this support, we can help children build confidence, develop strong reading skills, and foster a lifelong love of reading.
When I start working with a new student, I first find their three reading levels. That is what their independent, instructional, and frustration levels are while reading. Locating these three levels is vital to reading instruction because it helps me find their sweet spot or instructional level where they can grow most.
1. Independent: This is the reading level at which a child should be reading at home or during independent reading time. This book is at a skill level that is very comfortable to them, and it helps build their reading skills and confidence while also building a fluent reader. They will be able to read with 95% word accuracy.
2. Instructional: Working with students at their instructional reading level is most effective because it challenges them just enough. With the right tools and support, they can make the most significant reading progress and become better readers in this zone. They will be able to read this level with 90% word accuracy.
3. Frustration: This is where the material is too difficult for them to read. It's essential to refrain from reading this level at home independently because it can cause frustration and a bad overall experience with reading. Not knowing your child's reading level can run the risk of causing this type of burnout and distress for a child while reading at home. However, if a book is too hard for your child while reading at home, you can read it to them. Reading aloud to them still exposes them to high-level vocabulary and models fluent reading skills.
The Four Most Common Reading Level Systems Schools Use
Many schools use different reading level systems to determine a child's reading level and place them at appropriate levels. These systems include the Lexile Framework, Fountas and Pinnell, Accelerated Reader, and the Developmental Reading Assessment. It is vital to understand which measure your child's school uses so that you can take it to help you find the best books for your child to read at home. Therefore, I will walk you through the most common methods.
1. Lexile Measure: A Lexile measure gives a numeric number that indicates the difficulty level of a book. So if your child's reading level is a number followed by a capital L or looks something like this, "530L-810L," their teacher uses lexile to measure their reading. All the numbers can be confusing and overwhelming for parents, but they show the range of books they can handle independently and are a great tool to help match them with appropriate books at home. A child's lexile score is based on a quantitative method using sentence lengths and independent words to assess students. Lexile numbers range from below 100L for beginner readers to above 1600L for advanced readers.
2. Fountas and Pinnell: This system uses a running record to assess a child's reading abilities, which include word accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. The results determine a child's reading level and help match them with appropriate books. This measure is probably the easiest to follow because it uses letters to divide books into proper groups for children alphabetically, and you know what letters correspond to each grade. The most straightforward books for young readers start at level A and incrementally get more challenging. The higher level of books is the end of the alphabet, and the most complex stories for advanced levels is level Z. Each grade has a wide range of reading levels to gradually progress to more challenging material with the child's progress. Children are tested and placed with this tool by reading a benchmark book (a book they have never read before) to determine their comprehension and fluency levels.
3. Accelerated Reader: Uses a decimal system, and each grade is represented on a scale of 10—for example, if your child is at a level 2.8, they would be at a reading level for a second grader but nearing a third-grade level. This whole grade-level reading system is computer-based and uses more of a standardized test approach with multiple-choice comprehension questions to determine the child's reading ability. After they read a book, they hop on the computer and take a test.
4. Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA): This method uses the benchmark book that the child reads, and then they retell the story. The teacher then gives them a score representing the child's word accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. DRA starts with level A and then moves to numeric numbers, from 1 to 80.
Here is how your child should score in these methods to ensure they are meeting the child's grade level. I determined this information from a Correlation Chart I often use for placing my students from Learning A-Z:
What Reading Level Should My Child Be Reading at in Kindergarten?
Fountas and Pinnell: A-C
Accelerated Reader: 0-.9
What Reading Level Should My Child Be Reading at in First Grade?
Fountas and Pinnell: D-J
Accelerated Reader: 1-2.4
What Reading Level Should My Child Be Reading at in Second Grade?
Fountas and Pinnell: J-M
Accelerated Reader: 2.5-3.5
What Reading Level Should My Child Be Reading at in Third Grade?
Fountas and Pinnell: N-P
Accelerated Reader: 3.6-4.2
What Reading Level Should My Child Be Reading at in Fourth Grade?
Fountas and Pinnell: Q-S
Accelerated Reader: 4.3-4.9
What Reading Level Should My Child Be Reading at in Fifth Grade?
Fountas and Pinnell: S-V (5th grade + is level W-Z)
Accelerated Reader: 5.0-5.9
DRA: 40-50 (5th Grade + is 60-70+)
How to Find the Right Children's Books Based on My Child's Reading Level
Now that you understand your child's reading level well, the next step is to find the right books for them. The main goal is to find books that are at your child's level and capture their interest. For younger children, finding picture books and graphic novels at their reading level can be a great way to engage their interests while still challenging them with new concepts and vocabulary.
See the descriptions below that correlate with whatever leveled reader method your child's teacher uses below.
How to Find the Reading Level of a Specific Book
Once you know what reading level system your child's teacher uses at school, you can usually count on your trusty old friend Google. I honestly often type in, "What lexile level is Island of the Blue Dolphins?" Or "List of Fountas and Pinnell books on level D," What level AR book is Pinkalicious: Flower Girl?" and so on.
Or try some of the suggestions for finding books at your child's reading level below!
How to find Lexile-level books for my child at home: Lexile has a Find a Book Tool where you can search to see if a book is within your child's Lexile range. The tool lets you quickly type in a book's title, author, or ISBN to find the Lexile measure. You can also search by grade and/or Lexile Range to find a list of titles in your child's range.
How to find Fountas and Pinnell Books for my child at home: The Fountas and Pinnell website states, "The only true way to get a Fountas & Pinnell level is through the Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Books Website (LBW). It is the only official source for books leveled by Fountas and Pinnell using their F&P Text Level Gradient™. This frequently updated, subscription-based, on-line list contains 64,387 books submitted by over 300 publishers. Every book is meticulously reviewed and leveled by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell in conjunction with their team of hand-selected levelers using the F&P Text Level Gradient™."
I looked into this Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Books Website subscription option, and it costs $25.00 per year. It is a database for people to search for books at a specific Fountas and Pinnell level. You can search by author, level, grade, etc. People often mistake the subscription as a place to access or print books at their child's level, and you cannot. However, you can go on to search and find appropriate books for a given level.
How to find Accelerated Reader (AR) level books for my child at home: Ar books can be searched for using the Accelerated Reader Book Finder. The Quick Finder search option allows you to search for book titles, authors, or specific topics. Whereas the Advanced Search option allows you to put in your child's specific AR level to search books, a book's ISBN number, and more.
How to find DRA Leveled Reader Books at your child's level at home: I couldn't find a specific tool for DRA-level books at home, but the Scholastic Website is a great resource for finding books at your child's reading level (For DRA, Lexile, and more!) Watch the video below as I show you how to search for books at your child's reading level with the Scholastic Book Wizard tool.
Hire Professional Help
One last way to access material at your child's reading level at home is to work with a reading tutor like myself. With my students, I am continuously assessing them, providing them with individual lesson plans that meet their specific needs, and I provide access to assignments and reading material that is at their reading level at home through an online site called Raz Kids. Students log in at home and can read books at their level, take comprehension quizzes, and more. Kids love the program because they can earn stars and badges that they can turn in to build a rocket ship or personalize their own avatars. If you are interested in hiring a reading tutor to take the guesswork out of making sure your child's reading level is on track, click the button below!
Other helpful websites/apps to help you find books at your child's Reading level:
Kids Book Series is a website that allows you to search for books at their reading level. They have the option to search by grade level, DRA level, Lexile level, AR level, and more!
QuickScan Book Leveler App: This allows you to scan the barcode on the back of the book to quickly find the book's reading level (shows DRA levels, Lexile, and Fountas and Pinnell).
The Five-Finger Rule
If this is all a little overwhelming and hard to understand, you can always use a simple trick to find books at just the right level at home. It is called the "5-finger rule" to ensure you find books that are challenging enough to work through hard words and learn new things. However, too-hard books can be discouraging and lead to conflict between you and your child at home as frustration rises. The last thing you want to do is leave your child with a bad taste in their mouth around reading. They should be reading at their independent reading level at home to build confidence, word awareness, and fluency. Part of the perk of hiring a reading tutor is that I can help you with this process by telling you your child's independent reading level and helping you select the just right book at home.
How to Support Your Child in Their Reading Progress
Students’ reading levels can put so much pressure on parents and children alike. It is not always a cookie-cutter process. Various factors can affect your child's reading score, and the school system focuses so much on grade levels. If your child is behind in their reading, take a deep breath and know that all children learn at different times and in different ways. After a long school day, the last thing your child wants to do is come home to have their parent harp on them about reading and take a hit to their ego.
Make Reading Fun at Home
The best approach is to make reading fun and light at home. Young children need to develop a positive association with reading, and the good news is that you, as a parent, have the chance to model a love of reading and create fun memories with your children while reading together. One simple way to make reading seem fun and exciting is to create a special book nook or designated area in the house for your child to read. Add a tent, light music, and some lights!
Allow Your Child to Choose
Allow children to read their favorite books and experience with different levels sometimes (it's okay if you have to read to them to early readers or even older children to avoid frustration- the exposure is still building upon vocabulary, comprhension, listening skills, fluency, and more!) Take them to the library, expose them to different genres, and help them choose books that suit their interests. Ultimately, giving them a choice of what books they would like to read keeps them motivated and excited about reading!
Engage In The Reading With Them Through Conversation
Asking your child questions before, during, and after the text can build on comprehension skills. Click here to download and print a FREE PDF copy of questions you can use to help your child improve their literacy skills and foster a love of reading.
Seek Professional Help
Your child may have missed instruction in the previous years. Reading is systematic and sequential, so this can get in the way of their reading progress. Hiring a reading tutor or online specialist (or interventionist) such as myself can effectively pinpoint their areas of concern, meet them exactly where they are currently, and build them up to a higher reading level. The first thing I do when I work with children is a FREE Reading Assessment to build their individual learning plans. If you are interested in hiring a reading tutor to take the guesswork out of making sure your child's reading level is on track, click the button below!
About the Author
Janay Neufeld is an online reading specialist and confidence coach for kids. Her unique approach can help children worldwide increase their confidence and reading skills with positive mindset training, helping them reach their full potential.
She has her multiple-subject teaching credential, almost a decade of experience helping children learn to read, and a Master of the Arts in Education. She is also certified as a life coach for kids through Adventures in Wisdom and trained in Orton Gillingham through the Institute of Multisensory Education.
Click the button below to sign up for a FREE Reading Assessment and find out if tutoring might be the perfect fit for your child!