A Parent’s Guide to Reading Levels

What is a reading level and how does it apply to your children? Simply put, a reading level is a measure of a child’s capacity to read words and content. It also shows how a child can read independently. Reading levels provide the opportunity for parents to choose books that match what their child can read. Any choice of books should present a hint of challenge as well.

Determining Reading Level

To determine your child’s reading level, whether your child is not in school yet or your child is being homeschooled, you’ll want to measure their readability level. You can determine readability in several ways. Most schools administer reading tests to determine a child’s reading level. Others in need of added help go into reading specialization programs and work with a teacher or reading specialist. A school or reading specialist may give students any of the following reading tests.

Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
Dale-Chall Score
Lexile Framework
Powers-Sumner-Kearl Readability Formula
Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA)
The Fry Graph

Many of these reading tests and other related tests are available online. You can determine your child’s reading levels through them.

Simple Way to Determine Reading Level

You can also determine your child’s reading level at home simply by following the five fingers rule. Give your child an age appropriate book and go to any page. When your child has difficulty reading over five words on the page, you’ll know that the book is too complex for them. Most any library or store that sells books has them arranged by reading level, so you should be able to find the right one/ones for your child.

Age Range Milestones

Children reach certain reading milestones at different times. Reading levels come at varying stages and a child can spend a certain amount of time in each stage or level. If you feel your child doesn’t reach these stages at the right time, connect with your doctor, teacher, a reading specialist or someone involved in early intervention for children who struggle with reading. Regarding a child’s age, here are indications of where they should fall.

Up to Age 1 – Infancy

– Grasps that actions and sounds transmit meaning
– Answers when spoken to
– Focuses attention to a person or object
– Comprehends 50 words or more
– Reaches out for books and turn the pages with help
– Reacts to stories and pictures by tapping the pictures and uttering sounds

 Ages 1–3 – (young children and toddlers)

– Names common pictures
– Identifies objects in books, for example (where is the dog? What does the dog say?)
– Points to identify objects
– Mimics reading books
– Completes sentences from books they know well
– Scrawls on paper
– Recognizes book names and identifies them by cover pictures
– Turns pages of board books
– Usually has a preferred book and ask that it be read frequently

Age 3 – Early Preschool

– Examines books on their own
– Listens to longer books read out loud
– Repeats a familiar story
– Sings the alphabet song (with urging and prompts)
– Creates symbols that look like writing
– Distinguishes the first letter of their name
– Grasps that writing is different than drawing a picture
– Mimics the actions of reading a book out loud

 Age 4 – Late Preschool

– Knows familiar signs and labels, particularly any wording with signs and containers
– Recognizes rhyming words
– Able to name some letters of the alphabet (15–18 uppercase letters)
– Recognizes letters and their names
– Able to write his/her name
– Able to name the beginning letters or the initial sounds of words
– Able to put some letters to their sounds
– Develops an understanding of syllables
– Tries writing words with familiar letters
-Comprehends that text is read from left to right and top to bottom
– Repeats stories that have been read to them

Age 5 – Kindergarten

– Builds rhyming words
– Matches some spoken and written words
– Writes some words, letters and numbers
– Knows some familiar words in print
– Perceives what happens next in a story
– Recognizes the beginning, final and middle sounds in short words
– Identifies and manipulates progressively smaller sounds in speech
– Understands specific definitions of some words
-Reads simple words with a definition and in using the word in a sentence
– Retells the main idea of a story and identifies details of it (who, what, when, where, why how, and is able to put story events in order

Ages 6–7 – First and Second Grade

– Reads stories they are familiar with
– Sorts out unfamiliar words
– Uses the pictures and context to figure out unfamiliar words
– Able to use punctuation and capitalization in writing
– Able to correct themselves when they make a mistake reading aloud
– Understands a story through illustrations or drawings
– Able to write by putting details into an understandable sequence(beginning, middle and end

Ages 7-8 – Second and Third Grade

– Reads longer books on their own
– Reads out loud with expression
– Able to recognize both context and pictures to identify unfamiliar words
– Able to understand about paragraphs and apply them in written material
– Uses correct spelling and punctuation in written work
– Able to write notes and email
– Understands humorous text
– Able to use different words, phrases, or figures of speech
– Corrects their own writing to develop and illustrate stories

Identifying Reading Problems

When a young child has reading problems early on, such as struggling with shapes, colors and letters, they may be experiencing the following difficulties that include

– Difficulty with learning new words
– Difficulty learning to read
– Trouble with learning numbers, the alphabet, days of the week, or colors and shapes
– Poor concentration
– Inattentive
– Difficulty following directions
– Difficulty grasping a pencil, crayon or pen

Develop Your Own Literacy Program

In order to help young children, early literacy programs provide the skills necessary for children to become adept readers. Early literacy activities help children build on reading skills, such as vocabulary development, expressing themselves and comprehension. These learned skills will help young children make sense of words in print when they do read. Here is a list of early literacy practices and activities you can do with your child to help develop their language skills. There are also professional programs, such as Orton Gillingham training.

– Playing – let your child play dress-up, or act out stories with puppets or play with blocks and pretend you are building different buildings

– Singing – helps children to hear words broken into parts. Singing also helps with teaching new vocabulary and introducing new ideas. You can songs at bedtime, sing along to cds, or find books you can sing together

– Talking – Talking with your child is another way to encourage reading skills. It also gives children information about the world and knowledge that they can use in independent reading. The more a child knows about the world, the more they’ll recognize the printed word. Ask your child more complex questions they won’t be able to answer yes or no, like what did you do at the playground today? Also, talk about what you do in a day or in one of your daily routines. For example, “We are going to clean the windows and doors today. We need to gather all our tools to do that. Let’s get out the window cleaner, the paper towels and cotton cloths, the ladder and the squeegee. Can you help me with spraying the windows?”

Reading with Children

Reading with your child is a good way to help them read on their own. Reading with them increases their vocabulary. When they hear words in early childhood, they’ll be able to recognize printed words when they start to read, plus they’ll understand what they read.

Read with your child on an everyday basis.
Read printed labels at the supermarket and other places
Point out important words and letters when you read to your child.

The benefits of reading to your children will follow them into adulthood. Their vocabulary will increase and become more extensive and they’ll do well academically. They’ll also develop a vivid imagination and you’ll spark creativity skills. They’ll develop an understanding of their world and they’ll develop empathy, not to mention that their levels of concentration will improve.

There are many ways to determine readability levels for your child. Also, knowing the milestones of early and later reading skills will enable you to know what you should do with your child to help him or her become a better reader. Literacy programs also assist your child with the pre-skills that help your child become an even better reader. With all of this knowledge in hand, you can’t go wrong with helping your child to read on level and even above level.