The term ‘reading levels’ in a broad sense means a number of things. They can include:
- reading accuracy
- phrasing and fluency
- comprehension level
(to name a few)…on a text with specific guidelines within a given reading system. A student’s success in these areas are dependent on reading strategies developed over time, to bring various sources of information together simultaneously at increasing levels of difficulty, with decreasing levels of support.
Organizations, such as school boards, use a combination of systems to measure reading levels. Click here for the various reading systems explained!
Why schools use leveled readers:
Leveled readers are used to match children with books that are ‘just right’ for their reading skills. If a book is too easy, it will lack the problem solving necessary to challenge them to continue to grow as readers.
If a book is too hard, time and effort struggling through difficult words or passages will rob the reader of meaning and enjoyment.
Leveling depends on a number of factors, and each level gradually gives the reader more of a challenge in a developmentally appropriate sequence.
Why we do not speak their name…
Kids who struggle with reading, or simply have a slower start, know it. The more people discuss reading levels, the more children fixate on the numbers.
I’ve known many children who read well above grade level, but wanted to be in a particular child’s level, or at a certain number. Levels can be a great source of anxiety and detract from actual reading! Being the ‘kid who can’t read’, a ‘bad reader’, the ‘best reader in the class’, or ‘really smart’ can become a part of one’s identity. Labels like these weigh heavily on kids.
Imagine walking around with the size label on the outside of your jeans, and hearing your friends’ parents discussing it at the bus stop. Having it posted on a list. Regardless of what the label says, the lack of privacy leaves one vulnerable to a status. The public knowledge of the label leads to trying for a ‘better’ number, maintaining the acceptable one, or coming up with an explanation for not measuring up. In some cases, shame.
Too much attention to book levels can encourage competitive feelings. Is that fair considering the developmental factors in reading readiness?
Children only pay attention to the levels on the books or realize their significance if others deem them important.
Here’s what helps:
- Sending the message that people read for real purposes (i.e. instructions to learn how to do something, stories for enjoyment or research for needed information) is easy, just by reading in front of the kids!
- Ignoring or casually shifting reading level talk draw less attention than firmly shutting down a conversation. Questions or concerns can then be brought up with the teacher privately.
- Leveled books are just a small piece of the puzzle. Enjoying print means playing some reading games, listening to great stories and enjoying browsing interesting books.
Part of teaching children about reading is teaching them to look at the benefits of it over a lifetime and creating great memories, now.
Does your child talk about reading levels? (Levels are not marked on the readers below!)