Your child is in first grade, and his teacher announces with pride that your daughter has graduated from preprimer to primer readers. What in the world is she talking about? you wonder.
What exactly are preprimer, primer and first grade leveled readers?
First off, a reader is synonymous with book.
The easiest leveled reader is a preprimer. The text is simple and often repetitive and/or predictable when viewing the book’s illustrations.
Example preprimer text: I can run. Dog can run. I can jump. Dog can jump. I can swim. Dog can swim.
Preprimer correlates with late-kindergarten through mid-first grade. So if your child’s reading skills are developing on grade level, she will likely be able to read preprimer books/readers somewhere between late-kindergarten and mid-first grade.
Primer is the next step up from preprimer in the world of leveled reading. The text remains simple, but sentences are longer and more vocabulary is introduced. Repetition is common, but not to the extent of the preprimer level.
Example primer text: It was Kitten’s first full moon. When she saw it, she thought, there’s a little bowl of milk in the sky. And she wanted it. (an excerpt from Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes)
Primer correlates with the third-quarter of first grade (I know … pretty specific!).
First grade seems to suggest your child should be reading at this level in first grade, but don’t get worried; first grade in the sense of a leveled reader correlates with the fourth-quarter of first grade. In other words, your child is doing great if she reaches first grade readers by April of first grade.
First grade readers have much more varied text. The vocabulary is less common; the sentences are more complex. Words have more advanced or irregular phonetic patterns. Reaching this reading level is a milestone. Your child is READING!
Example first grade text: Chester felt his mother’s kiss rush from his hand up his arm, and into his heart. Even his silky, black mask tingled with a special warmth. (an excerpt from The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn)
Want to see how preprimer, primer and first grade levels correlate to other leveling systems?
Use the Reading Level Correlation Chart. If you have a child in the early elementary grades, print it out and keep it on hand. You will refer to it time and time again!
Where does the word primer come from?
First, primer is pronounced prim-mer with a short i sound. Primers refer to the earliest form of reading instruction in book form. A primer is similar to a basal reader. It features extremely controlled text for the beginning reader. Picture the textbooks in Little House on the Prairie when everyone recited the reading book aloud together. The Dick and Jane series were once a modern example of a primer series.
An archaic term resides in the modern form of literacy instruction! I hope this blog post helps to alleviate any confusion about the reading levels of preprimer, primer and first grade.