Reading Levels

You may be wondering what all this business about student reading levels really means and how you can use this information to help your own burgeoning readers. Each 9 weeks first grade teachers give students a reading assessment called a 'running record'. The running record assesses a student's reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. Teachers use the assessment information for grouping and instructional decisions. Additionally, the reading level is used to gauge a student's success in attaining the Virginia Standards of Learning for first grade and is thereby used in determining their language arts grades in the areas being assessed. In order to be successfully attaining the reading objectives students should reach certain reading levels by a certain point in the year. The expected reading levels for each 9 week term are as follows:

1st 9 weeks:  Level C
2nd 9 weeks: Level D
3rd 9 weeks: Level E
4th 9 weeks: Level J

In school I assess students to find their instructional reading level. This is where the student can read 90-95% of a text accurately.
In reading groups I guide students through books based on this level and instruct them how to master the text through the application of decoding strategies, employing fluency practice, and building comprehension. I also provide them time during the day to read on their own to practice the skills they have been learning. Independent reading should also be engaged in at home as often as possible! Reading should occur at home at least 5 days a week!

When students are reading on their own there are several factors to keep in mind. The first thing to keep in mind is the importance of letting students choose the books they would like to read, within reason and with parental permission of course . Books in their area of interest are easier for them to read, understand, and enjoy. One note of advice is to be aware of what your child is reading and be sure that the content is something that you feel is appropriate for your child. Just because a young reader can read a chapter book doesn't mean they should. Another key factor to consider is that self selected books should be easy enough for students to read by themselves without any help. This is known as the independent reading level. This is where students can read the text with  97-100% accuracy and have solid comprehension. Generally, books at a student's independent reading level are 1 or 2 levels below the instructional level. Finding a book's Guided Reading Level can be relatively easy. Here are a couple of websites that allow you to search for books by either level or title.

If you can't find the reading level for a particular book you can always try the old "Five Finger Rule". Have your child read a page from the book to you. Each time a  reading error occurs (skipping a word, substituting another word, or asking you to say the word) hold up a finger. If the student makes more than a handful of errors (5) then the book is too hard for them to read independently. But don't give up on that book! That would then be the perfect book for you to read to your child. Even though you may have an accomplished young reader they will benefit exponentially from listening to stories and discussing them with you. Listening and responding to stories helps to increase reading ability.

If you have further questions about the best ways to support and encourage your young readers please don't hesitate to ask!

Happy Reading!