Finding the reading level of a book and actually understanding it is often times a challenge to parent and teacher. Since reading levels of books are not given on a standardized scale, as a parent or teacher, one must be able to understand and decipher the meaning of each reading level scale in order to assure that children are reading books that are appropriate for them. Beginning with children’s paperback books, the quickest way to get the reading level is to turn it over and look at the back cover. Reading levels are usually printed in small print, close to the UPC code. Some will appear with RL 2, or RL 4.2. RL 2 means that it is designated for a reading level of 2 (often second grade). RL 4.2 would be designated for reading level 4 (fourth grade) with two months of time in school. Another reading level a person might see would be something that looks like 006 008, meaning ages 6 through 8, or 0912, meaning ages 8 through 12. Keep in mind this is all great, but you have to know the child for who you are selecting reading material. Also, keep in mind that non-fiction books and fiction books often have different reading levels. Though a child may read a fiction book at a RL 3.2, he or she may read a non-fiction book at a RL 2. Non-fiction books tend to be more difficult to read since vocabulary is often more demanding and difficult.
Now that you are thoroughly confused, let’s look at resources to help you determine the appropriate reading material for your child. One of the best resources out there is Scholastic Books. Visit their web site to order age and reading level appropriate books. They also have tools to help determine reading levels for just about any children’s book out there visit http://bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/homePage.do, type in the book that you are interested in or type in a book that your child has recently read to determine the reading level. The site will pull up a selection of books with the same reading level.
One of the most popular leveled reading programs used in schools is the Accelerated Reader Program, commonly known as AR. The program is a product of Renaissance Learning and provides one of the best ways to level books appropriately for students. Many schools use the Renaissance Learning software, STAR Reading, to help determine student reading levels. In this program, student’s levels are designated as 3.2, and 4.1. For a 3.2, the student is said to be reading on a third grade level with two months into the school year. For a 4.1, the students is said to be reading on a fourth grade level with one month into the school year. This method of reading level designation is know as the Advantage-TASA Open Standard (ATSO). The program has become very controversial over the years due to the fact that many students read just AR designated books to gain points from the quizzes rather than branching out to materials not designated as AR. Schools tend to reward students for gaining AR points which causes a competitive reading environment which, we all know, has positives and negatives attached to it. For more information on Renaissance Learning visit http://www.renlearn.com/ar/quizzes.aspx .
Another reading level system found in many school libraries is the McGraw-Hill’s Fry Readability Graph Fry, which was created to establish an age level for books. The Fry Readability Graph uses a randomly select three 100-word passages from a book or an article. Then it plots the average number of syllables and the number of sentences per 100 words. Using this information a reading level is plotted and determined. Keep in mind that it was not intended for fiction. For more information visit the following web site http://school.discoveryeducation.com/schrockguide/fry/fry2.html.
The Lexile Framework for Reading uses a scientific approach to quantifying reading and text. It used two measures: the Lexile reader measure and the Lexile text measure. The Lexile reader measure determines a person’s reading level while the Lexile text measure gives reading material a reading difficulty rating. Used together it is hoped that they will help a person improve their reading skills by choosing appropriate reading materials.For more information on the Lexile scale visit their web site at http://www.lexile.com .
Finally, the best way to determine if a book is at an appropriate level is to listen to your child read a page out loud. Tally the words where he or she struggles if by the time your child gets to the bottom or the page, you have four or less tally marks, the book is at his or her reading level, if you have five or more, look for something a little easier.
Reading levels are a sea of numbers and letters that confused teachers and parents. There are many resources out there to help us swim through this sea of confusion but, the best way is to stay on top of what your child or student is reading is to read the books yourself and finally, know where to find those reading levels and know what they mean. Do your research, but ultimately, just get your kids to read, read, read! Have fun with reading and let them read those things that interest them no matter what they are. You will find that by being informed, you will create a more voracious reader and a reader for life.