My Kid's Reading Level is...Now What?
August 09, 2012
Reading levels vary from student to student, as well as school district to school district. So, how can you find the correct books to engage a young reader but make sure it is not too difficult for them? This is a common issue that I come across both as a parent and while working for the Library. Parents are excited to hear their child is reading above grade level, but somewhat clueless about finding the correct books. Most likely because, when we were in school we read at grade level or above/below, now there are multiple tiers in each grade level corresponding to how a child comprehends the text.
Teacher conferences give us an opportunity to find out what level our child is on and, perhaps, a list of acceptable books in their reading range by using assessments like the Lexile Text Measure, Accelerated Reader (AR), or Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA). The Lexile Text Measure indicates the reading demand of the text in terms of semantic difficulty (word frequency) and syntactic complexity (sentence length). The Lexile scale ranges from below 200 for beginning reader material to above 1700 for advanced text.
The Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) uses a system of numbers from A1 for Kindergarten through 80 for up to sixth grade. Tasks measured by the DRA test are divided into several skill sets. Rhyming, alliteration, segmentation, and phonemic awareness are tested in the phonemic awareness section. Letter naming, word-list reading, spelling, decoding, analogies, structural analysis, and syllabication are tested in the alphabetic principle/phonics portions. Oral reading fluency or words per minute for contextual reading are tested under fluency. Vocabulary, comprehension, and reading engagement skills are also measured in the test.
Finally the Accelerated Reader (AR) is a computer program that helps teachers manage and monitor children’s independent reading practice. Your child picks a book at his or her own level and reads at his or her own pace. When finished, your child takes a short quiz on the computer. Passing the quiz indicates that your child understood what was read. AR gives both children and teachers feedback based on the quiz results, which the teacher then uses to help your child set goals and direct ongoing reading practice. Combined with the AR assessment, the ATOS rating on a book helps to choose the appropriate books for your child. ATOS uses a decimal type rating such as 3.5, which would correspond to a third grader in the 5th month of school.
The following chart will give you a Lexile reading levels to ATOS comparison.
Now that we have a better understanding of reading levels and how they are determined, how can we use these to find books from the library? There are several databases available which use Lexile numbers in advanced search forms. NoveList K-8 Plus is the one I use and recommend to parents for ease of use. Choose the Advanced Search link and enter keywords such as a subject of "video games" and your child’s corresponding Lexile number, 820. The search will pull up a number of books that you may use to search our catalog to find and place a hold on and have sent to your closest library branch.
Searchasaurus also uses a Lexile reading level system, just scroll down the page to find the link under Encyclopedias and Magazines. Searchasaurus provides access to a dictionary, an encyclopedia, magazine articles, and an image library for elementary and middle school students.
Another site for searchable nonfiction books is Book Collection: Nonfiction-Elementary Edition. Using advanced search, you can enter a Lexile reading level and subject to find titles that would suit your young reader or researcher.
Finally, AR Book Finder is accessed through our list of additional websites for kids. This website uses ATOS book levels and interest levels (Elementary, Middle School, etc) to find appropriate books through an advanced search. This site is user friendly in that you can compile a list to print, take to your local library branch, or use it to place holds on your selections through the MCPL online catalog.
Kids love to read when they have interesting books that challenge them but do not overwhelm them. Using the above websites to search for books on your child’s reading level will help foster good reading habits and raise their levels the more they read! And if you need any help, we are all happy to assist you in using these websites to find the best books for your child’s reading level. Stop by your local branch today.