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  • Writer's pictureJanay Neufeld

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 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?

Janay Neufeld of My Online Reading Tutor explains why kids are given reading levels

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.

Janay Neufeld at My Online Reading Tutor describes the 3 reading levels one must find to best instruct students to read and find appropriate books for them to read.

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?

Lexile: BR70L-160L

Fountas and Pinnell: A-C

Accelerated Reader: 0-.9

DRA: A-4