My family travels a lot: for my husband’s work, to visit family and friends and to rock climb. One of first stops after reaching our destination is the library. We check out some books, a video or two, and generally see what else is available – weekly story hour, toys/games/puzzles that can be checked out, movie night. And the reading specialist in me always wanders over to the early reader section to see which leveled readers the library has.
Two Reasons I Get Psyched when I see Leveled Readers at the Library
- It is beneficial when the public library makes available literacy resources comparable to those used by the school systems. It makes sense for parents and family to be able to find books that will support their children’s literacy growth at the library. Yes, picture books are a wonderful resource too, and should be used for read alouds daily, but they are not the best resource for emergent and beginning readers to develop independent literacy skills.
- I love FREE things! I encourage parents to obtain leveled readers, but they are expensive and difficult to purchase from the publishers for home use. When parents can find leveled readers at the library, the problem is solved!
Why Leveled Readers at the Library are not Perfect
- Libraries rarely purchase leveled readers from the same publishers that schools do. Why? I do not know. Possibly the big-name school publishers, such as Hameray, Heinemann and the Wright Group at McGraw Hill, are too expensive?
- Libraries rarely label the books with common leveling systems, such as Fountas-Pinnell Guided Reading, Reading Recovery or DRA. Therefore, it is difficult for parents to identify which leveled readers at the library at a good match for their children.
- Leveled readers at the library often are labeled with general and ambiguous terms, such as Level 1, Stage 1 or Beginning Reading. Level 1 and Stage 1 sound like the earliest stages of literacy development and consequently they should have the easiest books, like A-D in the Guided Reading system. Look at the samples of Level 1, Stage 1 or Beginning Reading books I found at the library during my most recent trip.
I Found the Following Leveled Readers at the Library
1) A New Friend by Penguin Young Readers (Level 1), 2) Pizza Party! by Scholastic Hello Reader! (Level 1), 3) The Gym Day Winner by Scholastic Reader (Level 1), Elmo Says Achoo! by Step into Reading (Step 1), 5) Penny and her Marble by I Can Read! (Beginning Reading 1) and 6) Animals in Winter by Read and Find Out Science (Stage 1)
I will highlight and give my opinion on the comparability of the “leveling” of some of the abovementioned books.
A New Friend by Penguin Young Readers (Level 1), Guided Reading Level: C
Yes!!! This is what I was looking for in a Level 1 book! On the back cover, level 1 is identified as Guided Reading Level A-D. This particular book is level C. Level 1 is for the “emergent reader.” As you can see if the sample text below, the text includes simple vocabulary, word repetition and very short sentences. This is the only leveled reader out of the six I found that has a true level from a recognized leveling system. Go see if your library has the Penguin Young Readers series. The levels range from 1-4. I highly recommend this series.
Pizza Party! by Scholastic’s Hello Reader! (Level 1), Guided Reading Level: F
The Gym Day Winner by Scholastic Reader (Level 1), Guided Reading Level: H
Both of these early reader series are published by Scholastic. Pizza Party‘s text is similar to A New Dog in that the sentences are short and there is word repetition, but Pizza Party‘s vocabulary is more advanced. However, the illustrations are very descriptive in Pizza Party so it would be relatively easy to simply look at the illustrations instead of using visual cues (aka sounding it out) to read the words. The Gym Day Winner features two-syllable words and words with advanced vowel patterns like throw and guard. Plus, the sentences are much longer. You really need to have a fair amount of reading strategies to be successful with The Gym Day Winner. Both of these books are good for readers at the mid- to late-first grade level.
Elmo Says Achoo! by Step into Reading (Step 1), Guided Reading Level: G-H (my estimation)
Like The Gym Day Winner, Elmo Says Achoo! features longer sentences and words with more advanced vowel patterns.
Penny and Her Marble by I Can Read! (Beginning Reading 1), Guided Reading Level: J
As you can see, Penny and Her Marble features a lot more text on each page. It is even a chapter book! Guided Reading Level J is considering beginning of second grade … a huge difference from A New Friend (level C). And both books are Level 1 in their series! But here is the catch. On the back cover of Penny and her Marble, there is a description of the book levels. There is actually a level easier than level 1; it is called My First, and it is described as “ideal for emergent readers.” Okay, hopefully that is where you can find level A-D books.
Animals in Winter by Read and Find Out Science (Stage 1), Guided Reading Level: K
This book has a comparable book level to Penny and Her Marble, but the non-fiction text has more content specific vocabulary words with which a young reader is likely to be unfamiliar: monarch, pika, hibernate and predator. However, as I read the back cover more carefully, it became clear that the Stage 1 Level applies to its Science content, not its reading level. Oops.
These days, public libraries have more and more leveled readers, but they are not usually leveled by the same system that your child’s school uses. As a parent, in order to select appropriate books for your child, you will need to be versed in how to determine the level of a text. Three excellent resources come to mind for determining the level of a text:
- Scholastic’s Book Wizard – This website, which is now mobile, has cataloged tens of thousands of books’ reading levels. Simply enter the book’s title and learn its level. Unfortunately, not all books are cataloged.
- Read Sachem, New York school district’s language arts department’s Text Level Indicators article. The article provides both a description and example of each text level (A-Z).
- Ask the librarian.
Parents: Does your public library have leveled readers available? What series or titles do you like best?