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Reading Levels And Your Child's Education

Why Understanding Reading Level Is Important

Sharing the act of reading and storytelling with your child doesn’t require any fancy degrees or qualifications. Simply crack the spine on an old favorite and go to town bonding over pirates and princesses with your little cherub. What could be simpler and more rewarding than that?

However, while you should never be intimidated by reading with your child, there are certain nuances and particularities that experts in the field of early childhood education do recommend you consider.

Chief among those is referred to as “reading level.” Now, a simple Google search for an explanation of reading levels—how they are determined, what they mean, and how to use them—is about as clear as mud. So let us give the hopeful parents out there a short translation on some of the basics of reading levels and how they pertain to your child.

An Overview Of Reading Level Assessment

First of all, there is no one standardized system for “reading level.” On the contrary, there are different schools of thought about a rather controversial topic. Let’s look at a quick breakdown.

The most basic and easy to understand system is one in which reading level is simply measured in relation to grade level. You’ve probably heard a proud parent boast that their kindergartner reads “at an eighth-grade level.” The reason they use that phrasing is because this is the most familiar system. 

But it gets more complex from there. There is the “Lexile Framework” created by the MetaMetrics company. This system uses an algorithm to try and accurately paint a picture of the skills required for certain books. 

There are also different types of systems for different types of reading. The “Guided reading level”, created by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell sets out to try and determine what level of writing is suitable for a student who is guided by a parent or teacher. Guidance, of course, allows a student to stretch their level a bit and learn new vocabulary, structure, and concepts. This scale aims to take that in to account where perhaps others do not. 

An Easy Way To Find Your Child's Sweet Spot

Feeling flustered yet? We get it—it is easy to let this information seem intimidating, and we haven’t even scratched the surface in this short look at the subject. Here is an easy way to get a general-purpose measurement of a child’s reading level. Simply ask the child to read a (random, preferably) page in a given book, and have them write down the words that they don’t understand. Above six or seven words means it is too high. Zero means the book may be too low. In the area of 4-5 lives the “sweet spot” so to speak.

But Remember, Reading Of Any Type Is Good For Children

Although this topic is complex enough to seem overwhelming, don’t let the byzantine nature of expert recommendations stop you from just jumping in and reading with your children. Reading at the wrong reading level is miles better than not reading at all!