Monday, February 23, 2009

Reading Levels Rescue

Frequently a parent will approach us and say, "My son is reading at level C, where are the books for him?" Or it's, "Level 10" or "Lexile 400." How do we have any clue where to start?

The first thing is to know that there's no national standard for leveling books. Different publishers and different curricula use different assessment tools, so patrons will come in using a variety of different terms and codes, depending on their school situation. I did however, find this chart, which offers a comparison from system to system and may help you start to get your bearings.

The next thing to know is that we use a completely different kind of assessment on our Easy Readers to select whether they get a green, red, or yellow dot than publishers and educators use on their books and their students, so it's really pretty fruitless for us to try to graph Green, Red, and Yellow onto the chart I just gave you!

If anyone asks, though, you can say that the Easy Reader section as a whole ranges from material that's appropriate for preschoolers through 2nd or 3rd graders, and that the color dots offer a rough guide as to beginning, practicing, and more fluent readers. The Junior Fiction section overall ranges from books written at a 2nd grade reading level through about a 6th grade reading level. Often the most practical thing to do with a parent is to walk with them to the Easy Reader section and try to find together books that look similar to what the student is reading at school.

One site that may offer you some more help is the Scholastic Bookwizard. Lori Romero mentions it in her article, "Making Sense of Beginning Reading Lingo."

On the Bookwizard, you can search for books in a few different ways. A Quick Search lets you enter a title and find out a suggested reading level for it. The BookAlike Search asks you to enter a title, then choose whether you'd like more books like that book that are easier, harder, or just the same reading level.

Finally, the Leveled Search is a more advanced search that lets you put in separate information for reading level and interest level, as well as type of book, genre, or topic. So you can look for books for that 2nd grader reading at a 6th grade level by entering 6th grade for reading level and 2nd grade for interest level.

What is potentially very helpful for parents is that you can select one of four reading level systems to frame your search in: Grade Level Equivalent (a decimal such as 2.4 or 5.1--publishers sometimes give this as a reading level on the back covers of paperbacks--2.4 means 2nd grade, 4th month), Lexile (often given as a range of 3 digit numbers, like 400-500), DRA (even numbers 2-80), or Guided Reading (a letter of the alphabet).

Two other tools you might be able to use are:
Accelerated Reader BookFinder (AR uses both a reading level and an interest level)
The Lexile Framework Book Search


Betsy said...

Hi Melissa:
I tried out Scholastic's Book Wizard. I searched for a grade 2 interest level and a 4th grade reading level, narrowed it to humor for 88 results - MOST of which were picture books. I thought that was very interesting because so many parents, once told their children's advanced reading levels, are anxious to make sure they are being "challenged" by reading only junior chapter books. So perhaps this could help convince them that picture books are still o.k. for second graders!

Melissa said...

Great feedback, Betsy! Thanks for messing around with this. Hopefully you're right, and parents will appreciate the challenge levels in reading picture books. I understand, though, them wanting to have a chapter book that will provide practice in sustaining attention and understanding a longer story.

Chris Vitiello said...

Hi Melissa,

I work with Lexiles, and appreciate your post a lot. The Scholastic Book Wizard is a great too, and we're working on the Lexile "Find a Book" site ( to add some of the same kinds of search tools. Around the end of March you will be able to set a developmental range for a book, apart from a Lexile range. It will be a great way to look for books for young readers with a large range of reading abilities.

Another thing to look for is the AD code at the front of a Lexile measure, like AD300L. This stands for "Adult Directed," and signifies that the books is really intended to be used for that teacher/class or parent/child reading experience. The majority of these books are picture books, but you would be pleasantly surprised at the range of Lexile measures in AD books.

I blogged about this a little on our Lexile blog -- I'm doing an after-school read-aloud class with struggling kindergarteners and first graders:

Again, thanks for your thoughtful post!

--Chris Vitiello