LEVELED READER SETS AT THE LIBRARY

In my last post, I evaluated several Level 1 Leveled Readers that I found at the public library.  I also borrowed several leveled reader sets.  I like the “set” concept because if you find a publisher you like at your child’s reading level, it makes sense to check out many books at this level.  A set makes decision-making easy.

All three leveled reader sets I share below are for beginning readers.  I would estimate all the books in the sets are between level D and F (Guided Reading Level).

Brand New Readers (Green Set) by Candlewick Press

brand new readersThis is my favorite of the three leveled reader sets.  There are 10 books in each of the sets.  The images below are from the book Puddles.  Pages 3 and 4 are similar to pages 1 and 2: Mouse jumps in a puddle.  Mouse gets his pants wet.  Your child will be successful because the text is repetitive and therefore predictable.  The text is humorous, and the illustrations are engaging.

brand new readers ex 1

Page 2

brand new readers ex 2

Page 1

I Love Reading Phonics by TickTock an imprint of Octopus Publishing Group

I also like the I Love Reading Phonics set.  There are 8 books in this set, which is called Level 1.  There are 6 Levels in the series.   The texts are a little more difficult than the texts in the Brand New Readers set.  There is less repetition, but phonics is the focus, so words are phonetically-regular (aka decodable).  Each book in the series has a different phonics focus.  The book shown below on the right, Bret and Grandma’s Trip!, features consonant-consonant-vowel-consonant (or beginning consonant blends) words, such as Bret, spot, crab and trap.  The illustrations are vivid, but the language feels a little forced, as is typical in phonics-controlled texts.  Other books in Level 1 focus on two-syllable words and double consonant endings, such as -ss and -ll.

i love reading phonics

i love reading phonics ex 1

Example pages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOB Books (Sight Words Kindergarten) by Scholastic

I was not impressed with this series.  I do not think it is a great fit for most beginning readers.  The text is highly controlled.  Almost all the words are either sight words or consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words.  This aspect paired with the bare-bones illustrations will not attract young readers.  I think this series is a good fit if the reader is struggling and needs texts to be extremely decodable in order to find success.  The texts could also be a good way to assess whether your child can accurately decode CVC words.  I do not think that the BOB Books make for enjoyable daily reading practice.

bob booksbob books example 1

FINDING LEVELED READERS AT THE LIBRARY

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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
  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

penguin young reader level 1

penguin example

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

hello reader example

Notice the rhyming pattern in Pizza Party!

scholastic reader example

Longer words and longer sentences make The Gym Day Winner considerably more difficult than A New Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

i can read beginning reader 1i can read example

 

 

 

 

 

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.

In summary

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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). 
  3. Ask the librarian.

Parents: Does your public library have leveled readers available?  What series or titles do you like best?

 

GET A LIBRARY CARD!

Utilize a super, FREE resource and get your child a library card, ideally in his or her name.  Here are some reasons why it is beneficial:
library

Children utilizing the public library

  1. A never-ending supply of free books!  Hello!
  2. Often the children’s section of the library has a section specifically for early readers (K-2 readers).
  3. If you’re lucky, the children’s section will have leveled readers.
  4. Having his or her own library card is empowering.  You have a driver’s license, bank card, credit card, etc.  S/he has a library card!
  5. The library often offers exceptional, free literacy programs, such as toddler time, crafts and summer camp.
  6. The librarians can make excellent book suggestions for your child based on his or her interests and reading level.
  7. There are also a variety of versions of “books on tape” for children.  CDs and DVDs paired with books can motivate reluctant readers.
  8. The library often has a great play center filled with new, sometimes educational, toys.  The children’s section of the library is a perfect place for a play date.
  9. Some libraries have computers and iPads loaded with literacy software.
  10. Mom, Dad, Caregiver, you can sign out a book for personal reading to model good reading habits.
  11. Libraries often have excellent parenting resources on a range of topics from integrating literacy into the home to nutrition to learning disabilities.
  12. If you visit the library regularly, there is no need to own a ton of books.  This is especially important if you are looking to save money, live in a small space or dislike clutter.
  13. As a public resource, some library funding is dependent on how much the library gets used.  The more that the library can document that its services are used by the community, the greater the funding.
  14. Libraries have computers with Internet available for public use.  Your child can complete his or her research projects and/or homework there.
  15. The library often has study rooms, which can be reserved.  The study rooms are appropriate for doing homework or meeting with a tutor.

What cool things am I overlooking?  Here’s a chance to brag about your local library. 

 

PREPRIMER, PRIMER AND FIRST GRADE LEVELED READERS

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.

 

HOW CAN I FIGURE OUT MY CHILD’S READING LEVEL?

First … Why is it important to know my child’s reading level?

You want to know your child’s reading level because then you can make sure he has access to books that are a perfect fit!  When you match a child with appropriately-leveled reading books, his reading skills will improve.

reading level

Knowing your child’s reading level will help you to choose books he can read independently and books he can read with adult assistance.

Your child’s teacher should know your child’s reading level

ASK!  Depending on the leveling system that the school or classroom uses, the teacher may provide you with a grade number (K-12), letter or number.  Then use the Reading Level Correlation Chart to see how his reading level correlates to other leveling systems.  A lot of classroom teachers send home nightly readers/books at your child’s independent reading level.  Often teachers will supply students with a couple of books at their independent level to keep in their desk to read during free, or silent, reading time.

How to figure out your child’s reading level

Select at least three books that you believe your child can read easily.  By easily, I mean they can read 98% or more of the words in the book.  Find out the books’ reading levels by using Scholastic’s Book Wizard.  On the home page of Book Wizard, you can select which leveling system to use.  I like Guided Reading (A-Z) best.  I would use this system unless your child’s classroom teacher uses another leveling system.  In that case, align the system you use at home with the school’s.  If Book Wizard does not have a level for the book you entered, keep entering in new titles until you find ones that have a reading level.  Hopefully, the three books you selected have similar reading levels.  They should.  By similar, I mean they should only differ by one letter (Guided Reading) or one letter (DRA) in the leveling system.  If there’s a discrepancy between the reading levels of the books, enter a few more books’ titles until you can find a consistent reading level among the books.

Steps to find your child’s reading level

1.  Count the words in the book, if your child is reading at a K-1 grade level.  If reading at a second grade level or higher, select a passage, roughly 100 words, in the book for your child to read.

2.  If possible (I know it is time-consuming), photocopy or copy by hand the book or passage.

3.  Have your child read the passage orally.  Children reading at a third grade level or below typically perform best reading orally.

4.  Your child has the original book in front of him, and you keep the copy in front of you.  Have a pencil ready.

5.  As your child reads aloud, cross out any words that he misreads or skips.  Do not give hints.  If your child looks to you for help, you can say, “Try again.”  If he does not know the word and refuses to continue, you can tell him the word, but cross it out and consider it misread.  If you cannot cross out the miscues because you did not copy the book, tally the miscues.

6.  If your child self-corrects, which means correctly reads the word after misreading it, do not cross it out.  Additionally, sometimes children will realize that they are off track and that what they are reading does not make sense and will reread an entire sentence.  If the second reading includes self-corrections, do not cross out those words.

7.  When your child finishes the book or passage, total up the miscues (crossed out words).

8.  Use the following formula to calculate your child’s reading accuracy rate:

(Total words – miscues) / Total words = Reading accuracy rate (round upward to whole number)

Example:  Book has 79 words, and the child makes 5 miscues. 

(79-5)/79 = 74/79 = 94% accuracy rate

In other words, subtract the miscues from the total words and then divide that number by the total words to find the reading accuracy rate.

9.  On a subsequent day, or immediately afterward if your child does not appear fatigued or frustrated by the oral reading session, repeat the above 8 steps with the other two books you selected at the same reading level.

Using the reading accuracy rate to determine whether a given book is at your child’s INDEPENDENT, INSTRUCTIONAL or FRUSTRATION level

Your child’s reading accuracy rate determines whether a book is at your child’s independent, instructional or frustration level for word identification in context.  This only checks how well your child can read the words in the text, not whether he comprehends what he is reading.

There are three levels that depict your child’s relationship with a given book.  At the independent level, the child can read without assistance.  At the instructional level, the child can read successfully with some teacher/parent instruction.  At the frustration level, the child makes so many mistakes (miscues) that understanding the book is impossible. 

Using the formula above, if your child’s reading accuracy level is at 98% or above, the book is at his independent level.

If your child’s reading accuracy level is between 90% and 97%, the book is at his instructional level.

If your child’s reading accuracy level is at 90% or below, the book is at his frustration level.

Your child’s independent and instructional reading levels will be different

Let’s say the first three books that you selected as “easy to read” were leveled as D in the Guided Reading leveling system.  You might find that he reads all three books you first selected with 98% accuracy or better.  Woohoo!!  You have found his independent reading level to be level D books.  But let’s consider a different scenario: Your child read the three books with accuracy rates ranging between 93% and 98%.  Okay, that suggests that D level books are more consistently at your child’s instructional level.  Go back on Scholastic Book Wizard and find some books that are at the C level.  Repeat the reading accuracy test and see if the easier books are at your child’s independent reading level.  After finding your child’s independent reading level, find your child’s instructional reading level by having him read slightly harder books that he can read with 90% to 97% reading accuracy.

When should my child read at his independent level and when should he read at his instructional level?

When your child is reading on his own, he should read at his independent level.  Reading at this level improves reading fluency, sight word knowledge and confidence.  When your child is reading with a teacher or parent, he should read at his instructional level because the adult can provide support and instruction that will allow the child to improve his reading skills.

Parents, did you use this method or a similar one to determine your child’s reading level?  What worked?  What didn’t?  Have you seen the meaningful purpose of your child reading independent and instructional leveled books?

 

 

WHAT ARE LEVELED READERS?

Children’s reading abilities advance most when they are reading appropriately leveled readers, or books.  Publishing houses that create literacy materials level their books according to the books’ difficulty level.  A book’s difficulty level is determined by a number of factors such as sentence length and complexity, word choice, vocabulary, content, repetition and predictability, length of the book, number of words/sentences on each page and complexity of content.

leveled readers

A variety of leveled readers, ranging in level from Kindergarten to second grade

One complicated thing about leveled readers is that different publishing companies use different systems.  Two of the most reputed leveling systems are Fountas-Pinnell and Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA).  The first system levels their books from A-Z; the second system levels their books from 1-44.

example of a leveled reader K

Publishing companies who produce literacy curriculum typically list the book’s level on the back cover of the book. This publishing company uses the Fountas-Pinnell leveling system. This book’s level is K, which is the equivalent of a second grade reading level.

A great tool to have on hand is the Reading Level Correlation Chart.  It shows how some of the best known leveling systems correlate to one another.

Another excellent resource is Scholastic’s Book Wizard.

  • You can type in a title of a book and find out its level.
  • You can type in a book’s title and find similarly leveled readers, or books.
  • You can search for titles at a specific reading level.

For a easy-to-understand guide to what different levels of leveled readers look like, check out Sachem, New York school district’s language arts department’s, Text Level Indicators page.  They use the Guided Reading (A-Z) leveling system.

Do you want to find out at what level your child is reading?

  • Ask your child’s teacher.
  • If your child brings home leveled readers, enter the title on Scholastic’s Book Wizard.
  • Find a book that your child reads easily, at his independent level, and enter the title on Scholastic’s Book Wizard.
  • Find a book that your child reads with minimum assistance, at his instructional level, and enter the title on Scholastic’s Book Wizard.  Compare the reading level of this book with the level of the easily read book.

To determine your child’s reading level with an easy-to-use home assessment, check out my post, “How Can I Figure Out My Child’s Reading Level?”  This link also defines independent and instructional reading levels.