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How To Determine the Reading Level of Your Child & Match Them With the Best Books

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By Fatima Mansoor

how to determine reading level

Many parents end up worried about choosing the right books for their children. Kids need books that they can read, understand, and enjoy. To ensure you are getting your child the right book to encourage their reading habits and help them improve, you need to understand how to determine the reading level of your child.

Every child is at a different reading level, and finding the right fit for them will allow you to buy the right books for them.

Books encourage creativity, help kids with comprehension and lead to their growth.

The good news is there are lots of tools and assessments out there to help you determine reading level, and once you know it, you can easily match your kid with the right books thanks to apps like HOMER and other resources.

First, let’s understand what it is before moving to how to determine reading level.


What is a Reading Level?

The reading level simply helps you determine your child’s ability to read independently.

Identifying your child’s reading level will aid you in picking out the best-suited books that keep them engaged and also challenge them to improve.

Every child is unique and so are their development speeds. Your kid’s reading level doesn’t need to be the same as the reading level of the grade they are in. They can be at different levels as compared to their peers and that is completely fine.

Determining the level is not to stress you out but to help you identify what your kid needs and how to help them grow and learn most effectively.

These levels are not meant to be looked at like limits.

Introducing your kids to books of their reading level will encourage them and give them the confidence boost to continue reading.


Why Is Vital To Identify Reading Levels?

Identifying reading levels is vital because you want to find the content for your kid that keeps them engaged and stirs creativity. Giving them a book too hard for their level will make them frustrated and lose interest (potentially compounding their reading difficulties), and so will a book that is too easy for them.

Finding the right match is where reading levels come in. The books provide them with the right level of content, creativity, and push to move forward.

Once you identify the reading levels, you can use it to search for the books of that level online or in libraries and stores. There are multiple applications and programs that help you in determining your kids’ reading level which means you will know exactly what you are looking for your kids, no more guessing your way in bookstores.


Ever Heard Of ‘Text That Fits’?

Books are made-to-order. There is no one size fits all strategy or a certain book time relevant for class levels. Each student is different and should be treated as such.

Finding a text that fits is about linking the right text to the right kid. This only happens when you individually understand the needs of each kid when it comes to the content, the interest of the reader, and the book design.

It is important to measure the exact text that fits your kid, that will keep changing as they grow, instead of just providing them with the average book available for that class or grade.


How To Measure Reading Level

There are a few different methods out there you can use to determine reading level:

Fountas-Pinnell Guided Reading Level

This methoduses benchmarking to determine levels. Your kid will sit with their teacher, one on one, and read from a benchmark book for that grade level. The teacher will take notes of missed words, test the pupil’s understanding and ask questions to identify how well the student is doing with the book.

GRL books range from A to Z, the levels starting from A. The teacher will keep track of progress and will move the kid along to more difficult levels. Factors include repetition, the complexity of sentences, and sentence length. This is beneficial as it is widely used, individually tracks development and your child is guided to improve through a proper system.


Grade Level Equivalent

The grade level system is based on assigning grades to the books. This is dependent on the age and the level of education of the kid, what students are typically reading at that age. It comes with a decimal point, which indicates the number of months into the school year, so a 3.2 means a third grade, two months into the school year.

This can be a helpful metric for parents to figure out what books their kid’s friends are reading and what is expected of their kid. However, this is not the benchmark, as every kid is different and develops uniquely.


Developmental Reading Assessment

Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) involves reading a benchmark book at the beginning of the school year. The child is scored on a range of skills such as accuracy of reading, comprehension, and fluency.


The number of words they can read correctly. The ideal range is 90 to 95% of the words being read correctly, more words read correctly means the book may be too easy for the child and they are eligible to move to the next level. If the accuracy is below 90%, then the book is too difficult, at a frustration level.


It is how many words can a child read per minute, it mostly tests the speed and is irrelevant at the earlier stages.


This tests their understanding of the words they have read. This can vary from just facts to deeper insights at different levels.

Children who read books matched to their DRA level make improvements in their reading and enjoy their reading too.


Lexile Framework For Reading

This measure determines the level of difficulty using a scale called Lexile. It matches your kid’s reading ability to the books. The scale ranges from 0L to 2000L. It uses the Scholastic Inventory test scores to analyze the reading level of a given text. The students take a standardized test or the Scholastic Reading Inventory to get a reading level matched to their reading ability.

The concept is for the kid to read between the Lexile range. 100L below and 50L above. If your kid has a Lexile score of 300, they will be reading books with a Lexile score between 200L to 350L.

This allows a school to properly measure a child’s reading level multiple times a year to match the kids with the books perfectly suited for them.


Accelerated Reader Book Levels

The Accelerated Reader formula is a complicated readability formula that determines the complexity of a text. It uses grade level ratings to determine what year and month a student could independently read a book.

Accelerated Reader differs from traditional grade-level equivalents in that it also considers interest level. This indicates whether a book’s material is appropriate for the given grade level.


How To Find The Reading Level Of A Book

Now that you have determined your child’s reading level, you are probably wondering how to identify if a book is of that reading level. Several tools help you with this.


1. Scholastic’s Book Wizard

You can search using Scholastic’s Book Wizard tool, the author, and title to find the reading level of the book. It has a database of over 65,000 children’s books. If you don’t know what book to go for, you can search using the reading level too to look for suggestions.

2. Renaissance ATOS Analyzer

The analyzer uses a readability formula to calculate how easy or difficult something is to read. This is a good option if you can’t find the reading level of a book using any other tool. Just copy a text of the book into the ATOS Analyzer to see how it scores.


3. Lexile Look Up

The Lexile tool allows you to search for books using the ISBN. Just enter the ISBN of the book in the search tool, to see if the book is in the database and check its reading level. The Lexile lookup also has the option for you to view a list of books based on your child’s reading level, allowing you to choose from the suggestions.


4. Accelerated Reader Search Tool

The AR search tool informs the parents about the grade level of the book which tells you if a child will be challenged by the book or will it become frustrating for the kid. It allows you to search for a particular book’s readability, interest level, and Lexile level.


5. Correlation Chart

The correlation chart is perfect if you want to compare a specific measure you know but are looking for another one. It allows you to find the reading level and use the tool to compare the reading level in another measurement. It is part of the State of Washington Public library system.


What Is The Five-Finger Test?

The five-finger text is a cool trick you can teach your kids to figure out if a book matches their reading level. It allows your child the independence to choose the right book on their own too. But what is this five-finger test:

  • Step 1:Ask them to pick up any book they want to read.
  • Step 2: Flip the pages, open the first or any page in the middle, make sure it has the same level of text as the other pages.
  • Step 3: Ask them to read it and hold up a finger, from a closed fist, for every word they don’t know or understand.

If the number of fingers up is 0 or 1, it is an easy book, and they can complete it independently. If they are holding up 2 to 3 fingers, it’s just right for them.

It will keep them on their toes.

It is a sweet spot where they will be encouraged to find the meanings of the unknown words.

If they are holding 4 and more, it will be a little challenging for them to read, and they will need a reading buddy, choose this book if you are planning to read it aloud with your kid.


Matching Your Child with the Right Books

Matching the right books is important to your child’s development. Handing them any book will make them lose interest and dissuade them from reading forever.

1. Use reading apps

HOMER - The Essential Early Learning Program and App for Kids 2-8 HOMER - The Essential Early Learning Program and App for Kids 2-8

HOMER is a personalized learning app designed to help kids fall in love with learning. There are over 1,000 learning activities across all subjects, and the content is tailored to your child's age and interests.

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Now that you have been introduced to reading levels and how to help your kid along the way, you can use reading apps to match your kids with books that fit them just right.

HOMER can be your learning partner. This educational app provides you with a lot of avenues, from figuring out the reading level to the Learn and Grow app, which is full of a library of books and stories based on your child’s interests.

HOMER Reading is an interactive channel to spark your child’s passion for reading. It has proven to increase reading scores by 74% with just 15 minutes a day.

The program is full of worksheets, games, activities that grow with your child.

HOMER pricing is very affordable at $9.99 a month or lower if you pay for a year in advance.

Click here to try HOMER free for 30 days.


2. Talk to your kid’s teacher

Keep constantly in touch with your child’s teacher. Ask them what you can do, how you can help, and the best ways to support your child at home. The first step is understanding where your child is at, this will help you decide on the books you should get for them. To understand their progress, it is best to consult their teacher.

Ask the teacher about the genres you should experiment with your child and the methods you can incorporate to make the reading experience better.


3. Learn about reading levels

Understanding and figuring out your child’s reading level is important. Guided reading levels are used by teachers to match your kids to their level of books. We have made figuring out reading levels easy for you too, so now you can do it at home. You can match your child’s reading level to the books available online or in stores. You can find a book’s reading level in the product details.

Reading levels are chosen for books based on a variety of factors that make a huge difference in how your child retains information and comprehends.

  • Text structure
  • Content and theme
  • Complex sentences
  • Vocabulary words and phrases
  • Illustrations


4. Follow your child’s interest

Your kid might not be picking up a book just because they haven’t found anything to their taste.

Studies have found that 42% of kids have trouble finding the books they like.

Focus on what interests your child and bring them varieties and see what they stick on.

Notice the shows they watch. If they are more into fiction as compared to non-fiction. If they like animal stories, introduce them to fables.

A lot of young kids are interested in adventures, and suspense books keep them hooked till the mystery is solved at the end.

Keep introducing your kids to different tastes till they find the one that clicks.


5. Explore diverse books

Experiment with different kinds of books. Starting with picture books at an early age is always a good idea. Kids learn to associate words with objects and places. Graphic novels with illustrations often prove to be interesting for your child. The images are not an easy way out, but they help instill comprehension in your child.

When your kid is ready to move out of picture books, introduce them to chapter books for long-term stories. It will help develop their love for reading.


The Growing Reader

This is how your growing reader progresses from kindergarten to 3rd grade:

Kindergarten is when your kids start their reading journey. As this school year comes to an end your kid will most likely be able to read and write basic words, know most letters with their sounds, match similar sounding words, and might also be able to read simple text.

First grade. By the time your kid is done with their first year, they would have learned to read many more words and like most other first-graders might also be able to read simple books independently. This is the time when they will be taught phonetic patterns and understand sentence formation, connecting meaning, and joining words. They will be able to identify an increasing list of words by sight.

Second and Third grade. In second and third grade your kids will continue with their learning of phonetics, moving to more advanced patterns. This is when you will notice your child’s reading gets stable, they will be more fluent and expressive when reading, will read out aloud and focus on the text and try to gain as much learning as they can from it. They will want the availability of different genres and might also start to identify different authors, develop a preference for an author or genre. They will start to explore the world around them; the reading will now be to learn.

It is natural to be concerned about your child’s reading speed and understanding, if at any point you feel there is a problem, consult your child’s counselor, teacher, and doctor if needed. Identification of a problem early on will allow you to address it proactively bringing about the best results for your kid.


How To Raise Your Child To Become A Fluent Reader

You can help your child along the way to become a fluent reader. you can now easily determine your child’s reading level, now you need to identify, choose the right books along, pay close attention to your kid’s reading habits to see how you can help. Working on the suggestions below will help you raise your child to become a fluent reader.


Check Cues

Focus on what your child is using to understand and figure out the text. Are they dependent on pictures, are they using context clues to make sense of what word should come next as they read sentences? Is your child getting trapped by hard to sound words and are they trying to sound out the words aloud to make sense of them?


Track Vocabulary

The best way to keep a track of and improve your child’s vocabulary is to play word games with them. Ask them synonyms of a random word, ask them to derive smaller words from a big word, tell them the meaning along the way so they keep learning. Do word puzzles with them daily.

Challenge them to think of a specific number of synonyms or rhyming words. Use interesting adjectives to describe things around you when you go out, teach them on the spot. Make sure you use proper vocabulary with your kids, don’t be afraid to use difficult words, it will only help them improve.


Ask questions

Check their comprehension, ask them to talk about what they have read. Ask them for their opinion, make it a natural thing to discuss the story and their take on it.


Have conversations with your young one

It is vital to understand the importance of verbal communication with your child. They adopt the words you use around and with them. Conversations will help them develop an understanding of words, structures, and their meanings. Tell your kids stories from a young age develops an interest in them for stories which can eventually translate into reading the stories for themselves.


How to Make Reading Fun for Kids

It is not mandatory that your kid loves reading from day 1, but there are ways to make the activity fun, engaging and make reading a lifelong habit for your kid. These strategies will make reading fun for your kid:

1. Flexible reading

To develop their interest in reading, you need to ensure they have the time to read. Enable them with a lot of opportunities and resources. Ensure your kid is under no pressure to read but has the flexibility to pick up a book anytime during the day. They shouldn’t have to report back if they don’t feel like it. Allow them to read at their own pace.


2. Choose books themselves

Reading is fun only when the kid is reading what they want to. Allow them the room to choose what books they want to read. You can offer suggestions about the next series or another author. More often your kid will tell you what kind of book they want to read and you will have a genre to choose from.


3. Bring in technology and their smart devices

The digital generation can be hardly convinced to leave their screens, and one way to incorporate reading is to integrate it into their screen time. Provide them with online libraries to browse through, interactive eBooks, and audiobooks. Augmented reality keeps the students engaged by bringing the text to life, through images, videos, and sound.

Reading apps, like HOMER, can make it fun and exciting for kids to improve their reading skills. A lot of times, kids will be learning without even realizing it because the games are so fun.


4. Ensure a peaceful environment

You can create a stress-free space for you and your kids to just let go, grab a book and settle in for 10-20 mins during the day. Decorate the space with bean bags, comfortable lighting, cushions, plants, and mats. Allow them to retreat to their corners of the room to read while you retreat to yours.


5. Engage with reading contests

You can create small rewards and challenges to make the activity fun. Offer them gifts and host competitions if they reach certain progress. This will motivate and also make it fun for you and the kids.


6. Introduce post-reading fun

Post-reading activities allow you to keep a tab on your kid’s comprehension skills and ensure they are understanding what they read. Plan some fun activities, ask them to write alternative endings to stories, make them serious or silly. Act out different characters, encourage them to develop a skit around the story, and act it out. This will encourage creativity as well.


A Final Word on Determining Your Child’s Reading Level

Whether you’re homeschooling your kid or just working with them after school, understanding their reading level and working with them to find books that fit their skills can help foster a lifelong love of reading.

Remember, every child learns at a different pace, so be patient and consistent when helping your child improve their reading skills.

Have any questions about how to determine reading level for kids? Comment below so we can help.

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