While it may seem obvious that some books are harder to read than others, determining a specific reading level is less obvious. Librarians, educators and publishers use a variety of methods; among the most popular is Accelerated Reader, which according to developer Renaissance Learning, includes data on more than 9.8 million students in 2014. The program relies on a standardized test, explains the U.S. Department of Education. You can research a formal method like this one or determine the level for yourself, informally.
How Hard Is This Book?
To determine reading level on your own, note a book’s length, complexity and vocabulary. Arizona State University instructor Diann Christensen adapted guidelines from Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell’s widely used Guided Reading Level. Kindergarten books, levels A and B, typically have eight pages or less with pictures and use repetition and subjects familiar to young readers. Books at level J, such as “Where the Wild Things Are,” are longer, with more adjectives and adverbs and a wider range of themes. You can use an informal assessment to find out if a particular book is right for a reader. The National Institute of Professional Practice, in partnership with Wilkes University, recommends having students read selections aloud. Count the words each student stumbles over. If the student misses only one in 20 words, the book is easy for her; if she misses more than one in 10, it is difficult. You can encourage students, when reading to themselves, to count the words they don’t know to help them determine reading level for themselves.
- Renaissance Learning: What Kids Are Reading and Why It Matters
- U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences: What Works Clearinghouse -- Accelerated Reader
- Arizona State University; Guided Reading Level Descriptions and Examples; Diann Christensen
- National Institute for Professional Practice: A Practical Guide to Selecting “Just Right” Books for Independent Reading
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