Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reading Levels

It's no secret to people who know me or follow me on Facebook or Twitter that I am a fanatic when it comes to books, especially books for kids.

I recently signed up for a reading instruction class online through the American Library Association. I didn't expect it to be as much work as it is, or to enjoy it as much as I have.

Our primary tasks were to research one method of teaching reading and to practice different leveling methods. This last one has been the most fascinating part of the whole process.

I had no idea there were so many ways to level a piece of reading material! Our school uses Accelerated Reader and I have come to appreciate it in part because it puts our whole school on the same page regarding reading. We all have a common language that enables us to talk about helping our students improve their reading skills.

For my online class, though, I have sampled a variety of methods. For one, I had to pick some passages in a book and count how many 3+syllable words were in the passage. I used Rick Riordan's new book, The Son of Neptune because my students have been asking what its level will be for AR, but it is too new to be leveled yet. This first method - based on the passages I chose - came up with 7.1, or seventh grade, first month.

The AR system has a few ways for you to get a rough level estimate, so I tried that with the same book. I had to type in three 150-word passages and estimate the number of words in the entire book. It came up with a 5.9 level.

Our other assignments were to level a kid's magazine passage and a kids website. While it might have been self-serving, I did the latter on my own reviews of kids books. I got a reading level of 8th grade. (Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing when it comes to blogging!) We also noted that publishers will list their own opinion on the back of books.

All this got me wondering how "regular" parents, who don't read kids books - or read about kids books - 85+% of the time,  help their kids choose books that will be a good fit for age and maturity.

So, parents, chime in! How do you help your kids choose books?


  1. honestly, i doubt many are. i have MAJOR readers for parents, but even they weren't recommending books to me as a kid...and only occasionally commented on it in high school.

  2. Interesting, Jen. My parents didn't comment on my reading much either. As an older elementary student, they signed my library card so that I had unfettered access to every book in the library and turned me loose. But I know parents of some of my students are trying to be more engaged with what their kids are reading. I wonder if that is a generational thing or a function of the Christian school culture.