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?

 

HOW TO PREVIEW A TEXT

Emergent and beginning readers need a lot of support during reading to be successful.  Your primary goal when working with your child is to model the behaviors of good readers.  Therefore, before reading a text, you preview it to get the brain warmed up.  Our youngest readers really benefit from the introduction of concepts and vocabulary terms because they do not have a lot of word attack strategies to read accurately on their own.

You may want to read by post, How to Cue a Beginning Reader?, for more information about meaning, structure and visual cues.  This post will certainly help you to find effective language for previewing a text.

Steps to PREPARE to Preview a Text
  1. Before you preview a text with your child, read it yourself.
  2. Sum up what it is about in one sentence.
  3. If the text is a narrative, or story, ask yourself, is you child familiar with this scenario?  If the text is about a trip to the zoo, has your child been to the zoo?  Will he have any real-life reference points for comprehending the text?  If the text is expository, or non-fiction, what does your child already know about this topic?  If the content is unfamiliar, you will have to be more thorough during your preview.
  4. Identify key vocabulary terms that are integral to the theme of the book.  They may be used multiple times throughout the text.
  5. Identify any words that your child will have difficulty reading, either because their meaning is unfamiliar to him or because they are difficulty to decode.
Let’s see how you could Preview a Text with the book Edna Bakes Cookies.

1.  Read the title of the text to your child.  The title is Edna Bakes Cookies.  Edna is the elephant.  That’s an unusual name, but both Edna and elephant start with the sound /e/.  What kind of cookies do you like to bake?  Do you remember what ingredients we use?  What do you think the book will be about?  Here is where you can share your one-sentence summary of the book.

preview a text 1

2.  Do a “walk through” of each page.  This is when you can address key vocabulary words and difficult-to-decode words.  What is Edna doing on this page?  If he does not know, provide more cues.  Edna is putting in the first ingredient.  Look at the illustration.  What ingredient is that?  If needed, remember we talked about the ingredients you use to make a cake?  Sugar, flour and …?  Yes, butter!  Notice how the word “butter” starts with the letter b.  What sound does b make?  Yes, /b/.  Where does Edna put the butter?  Yes, in the bowl.  See how you are continually cuing in ways that draw your child’s attention to key words in the text.

Preview a Text 2

3.  Do you remember the main character’s name?  If not, provide the elephant’s name.  With every page, keep asking your child what the elephant’s name is.  Edna is a difficult to remember and difficult to decode word so he will need as much exposure as possible to recall the name when it is his time to read.  It looks like Edna is still adding ingredients to the bowl.  What ingredient does that look like?  It does not make sense to cue your child to the beginning letter of sugar, s, because the s in sugar is irregular and sounds like /sh/.  It is unlikely that a beginning reader will be able to use visual cues to decode this word.  However, the next ingredient is flour and directing your child’s attention to the first letter in flour, f, may help him to decode the word.  So we already have butter and sugar for ingredients.  The next ingredient begins with a f.  What sound does an f make?  Which ingredient begins with the sound /f/?  Yes, flour!  Great job.  Can you find the word “bowl” in this sentence?  If the child cannot, cue him to the beginning letter/sound in “bowl.”  What sound does bowl begin with?  Yes, /b/.  Do you see a word in this sentence that begins with the sound /b/?  Child points to the word “bowl.”  Excellent, let’s read the entire sentence together.  Read She puts flour in the ________, and see if your child can supply the word “bowl.”  You can also direct his attention to the word “bowl” in the previous sentence.  Or you can ask him to find the word “bowl” or read the entire sentence.

Preview a Text 3

4.  What is Edna doing with the batter?  If child does not know, say, Look she is using a spoon.  What is she doing to the batter?  Yes, Edna stirs the batter.  Ooh, yummy.  Look at the next page.  What is she doing with the batter now?  Yes, she is tasting.  Can you find the word “taste” in the sentence?  How did you know that word was “taste?”  Do you like tasting the batter when you bake cookies?  You are making a connection to real life experience, which will help your child to better recall the events in the book because they relate to his life.  Do you remember the elephant’s name?

preview a text 4

5.  What is Edna doing here?  Yes, eating “more” batter.  Please find the words “more” and “batter” for me.  Why do you think the word “more” is capitalized?  Yes, because she ate more (in a loud voice)!  Try reading the entire sentence.  Now look at the next page.  What is the elephant doing?  Try to read the sentence.  If you do not know a word, look at the first letter.  

Preview a Text 5

6.  Okay, I have to ask ONE MORE time!  What is the elephant’s name?  Look at the bowl!  Where is the batter?  How did it disappear?  Yes, Edna ate it all.  She ate more and more until it was all gone: No more batter!  Point to the word “more.”  Great!  Go back two pages, do you see the word “more” there, too?  “More” contains an -or vowel pattern, which is more advanced and likely unfamiliar to your child.  Consequently, when your child is reading the text himself, cuing him to “sound out the word” when he comes to “more” is not very helpful.  If he gets stuck, cue with a structure cue, like What word fits in that sentence?  Or you can read the sentence to him with a “blank” for the word “more,” and ask what sounds right in the blank?  

Preview a Text 6

When you preview a text, use the words in the text as much as possible so that your child hears the vocabulary repeatedly.  Now you are ready to read the book by yourself.  You know so many of the words from previewing the text!  Let’s start with the cover.

Prior knowledge (or familiarity with the text’s content) predicts comprehension better than a child’s actual reading ability (Leslie & Caldwell, 2001).  In other words, it is much easier to comprehend a text when the content is familiar to the reader.  Conversely, it is much harder to comprehend a text when the content is new.  Even better an exceptional reader cannot override the fact that the content is unfamiliar.

When you preview a text, the beginning reader becomes familiar with the content.  Yes, it may feel like you are “doing all the work” for him, but he needs all support he can get to be successful at this stage of literacy.

Leslie, L. & Caldwell, J. (2001).  Qualitative Reading Inventory-3.  Addison Wesley Longman: New York.

HOW TO CUE A BEGINNING READER

What is Cuing?

Cuing has two different meanings when it comes to beginning reading.  First, a beginning reader uses three types of information or cues (meaning, structure and visual) to read accurately.  Second, cuing refers to providing very specific prompts to your beginning reader when she comes to a word she does not know.  The prompts, or cues, have two purposes: your cue is meant to help your child to figure out the unknown word and your cue will help your child to internalize the word attack strategy you are suggesting, or modeling.

Three Types of Cues – Meaning, Structure and Visual

Readers use three types of information to read unknown words.  They can:

  1. use meaning.  The reader uses the book’s illustrations and her own life experiences and knowledge to figure out what makes sense.  This is the first word attack strategy that a child will become proficient at because it does not require any knowledge of letters and their sounds.
  2. use the grammatic structure of the sentence.  The reader uses her knowledge of how sentences are formed to decide what type of word (noun, verb, adjective) fits.  A non-reader inherently knows a lot about the structure of the English language from her years of experience as a listener and speaker.
  3. use visual information.  This is the most sophisticated word attack strategy because it requires alphabetic knowledge.  At first a beginning reader may only look at the first letter in a word, retrieve that letter’s sound and use that information to identify the entire word.

In reality, readers, especially proficient ones, use a combination of all three types of information to read unknown words.

Examples of Successful Use of Cues

Meaning – Text reads: I like apples.  I like bananas.  I like oranges.  The child can read the words apples, bananas and oranges because she looks at the illustrations of the shopping cart and sees the fruits.  Since all three words are nouns and fruits, the child may be using a structure cue, as well.

Structure – Text reads: Sam walks to the store.  The child can read the word walks because she (subconsciously) knows a verb or action word fits in the sentence.  She may also be using a meaning cue if she noticed that the illustration shows Sam walking.  If she noticed that the word begins with the letter w and its sound is /w/, then the child is using a visual cue too.

Visual – Text reads: When the baby gets tired, he is cranky.  The child decodes the word cranky by breaking the word down into chunks that she knows.  She recognizes and can sound out the cr and the -ank and even though she is baffled by the -y, she has enough visual information to decode the word.  Once she reads crank in cranky, the child uses a structure cue and knows that an adjective fits in the sentence.

Cues/Prompts to Use When Your Child Gets Stuck

Meaning

  1. Look at the illustration.  More specifically: What is the dog doing?  Where is the boy going?  Does the baby look happy or sad?
  2. Refer to something your child has experienced or knows: What tools do you use when you’re painting? (paintbrush, easel, paints)  How do you feel when someone does not share with you? (upset, sad, mad, angry)  When you do leave for school? (in the morning)

Structure

  1. Often these errors sound wrong.  Ask your child (and possibly reread the sentence containing her error), “Does that sound funny?”  If your child needs more support, reread the sentence substituting “blank” for the word she misread.  What word fits in the blank?

Visual

  1. Look at the first letter.  What is the letter’s name?  What sound does it make?  Try rereading the sentence and using a word that starts with that sound. 
  2. Do you notice any word families or chunks in the word?
  3. Where is the vowel in the word?  What sound does it make?
  4. Sound out this word, letter by letter.  You may have to repeat the segmented sounds again for your child to hear the word they form.  Blend the sounds to form the word. Again, you make have to model this.
  5. I know you know this word.  Take a moment to look at it closely.  If your child needs more support, you can reference the book, sight word card or sight word book that contains the given word.
  6. This word is very similar to a word you know.  Show the child the word “boy.”  What is this word?  Yes, it is “boy.”  Notice how the word you’re reading looks like “boy,” but has a “t” at the beginning.  What sound does a “t” make?  Then, what word is thatYes, it is “toy!’

Learning a systematic and sequential approach to visual cuing is complex.  Reading specialists are highly training in this approach; however, I have found that parents can learn to be more skilled at cuing with minimal training and support from a reading specialist. 

It is okay, and sometimes preferable, to tell your child the unknown word.  Working on cues with your child will teach her how to become a more independent reader, but it can also take a lot of time, which takes away from your child’s enjoyment of reading the book, fluency and comprehension!  Attempt to find a balance that works for you and your child. 

Watch these videos on the Parent Literacy Partners website to see cuing in action!  Notice how the adult monitors the child’s engagement and frustration and uses this information to determine whether cuing or simply giving the child the unknown word is more appropriate.

Parents: What cues have you used successfully with your child?  When do you feel stumped by cuing?

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. 

 

PHONEMIC AWARENESS ACTIVITIES

Phonemic awareness activities will help your child to learn to analyze and manipulate individual sounds in words.  Phonemic awareness is the ability to count the number of sounds; identify the beginning, middle and ending sounds; and segment, blend, add and delete sounds in words.

To understand why phonemic awareness is so crucial to your child’s reading development, read my post, “Phonemic Awareness – The Most Important Pre-Reading Skill.”

Now for some fantastic phonemic awareness activities that work…

1. ALPHABET SOUND TUBS – I really like the ones made by Lakeshore Learning.  The objects are sorted by beginning letter.  For example, the A tub includes apple, acorn and alligator.  The objects provide great practice for identifying beginning sounds.  However, if you wanted to practice identifying ending sounds, you could find multiple objects from various tubs ending with the sound /n/, such as sign, cone and sun.  I also like adding objects and toys to the tubs to expand the activity.

This phonemic awareness activity highlights identifying the beginning and ending sounds in words.

2.  PICTURE SORTS – Google beginning consonant sounds picture sorts, ending consonant sounds picture sorts or middle vowel sounds picture sorts, and you will find a plethora of materials fit for contrasting phonemes within words.  A couple of things to remember:

  1. Start with single syllable words.  Words with only three sounds, such as cat or bus are best.
  2. Contrasting beginning sounds is easiest.  Once that is mastered, move onto contrasting ending sounds.  Contrasting middle vowel sounds is the most difficult.
  3. Start by contrasting only two sounds.  Contrast at most four sounds at one time.

You can do this task with the objects in your alphabet sounds tubs, as well.

This phonemic awareness activity highlights identifying the beginning and ending sounds in words.

3.  ELKONIN BOXES – The Read Rocket website offers instructions how to use Elkonin boxes and the Lanternfish provides a ton of Elkonin boxes templates to download.  Since our goal is to develop phonemic awareness, which deals with sounds within a spoken word, not letters, I would recommend using counters (e.g. pennies or unifix cubes) instead of letters.  For example, when presented with the sheep template below, I would slide one counter in the first box while saying the sound /sh/, one counter in the second box while saying the sound /ee/, and one counter in the third box while saying the sound /p/.  After segmenting the sounds, blend them together to form the word, sheep.

Elkonin box

An Elkonin box template for the word, sheep. There are three boxes for the three phonemes, /sh/, /ee/ and /p/.

This phonemic awareness activity highlights counting, segmenting and blending sounds in words.

4.  USING KINESTHETIC MOVEMENT TO SEGMENT SOUNDS WITHIN WORDS – Start with consonant-vowel-consonant (cvc) word families that produce a lot of words, such as –ap, –ed, –ip and –ot.  Work with only one word family at a time, such as –ap, which includes the words cap, gaplap, map, nap, sap and tap.  Pass a ball back and forth between two (or more) people.  When you catch the ball, you say the next sound in the word.  Over three tosses, the word cap sounds like /c/, /a/, /p/.  By working within the same word family, you will only need to change the beginning sound.  In lieu of tossing a ball, you could stomp your foot or clap your hands for each sound, or phoneme.

5.  COMMUNICATE IN SEGMENTED PHONEMES – Start with single syllable words you use frequently, like car, bike, school, bed, ball, dog, etc.  Also use your child’s name, even if it has more than one syllable.  Say things like:

  1. It’s time for /b/ /e/ /d/.
  2. Do you want to /b/ /igh/ /k/ to /s/ /k/ /oo/ /l/ today?
  3. Let’s play catch with the /d/ /o/ /g/.
  4. /S/ /a/ /l/ /ee/, where is your brother?

At first, you may have to blend the sounds to form the word for the child, but with repetition, his ear will be able to hear the word among the segmented sounds.

This phonemic awareness activity highlights blending sounds in words.

Other amazing resources for phonemic awareness activities

I really find value in many of Heidi Butkus’ recommended phonemic awareness activities.  I specifically like the Segmentation Sliders (similar to the Elkonin boxes) and the Puppets speaking in segmented sounds and alliteration, both on page 3.  Sound blending bingo, songs and eliciting a physical response on page 4 are exceptional, too.

I like the Sound Segmentation Pictures at kellyskindergarten.com.  You can use them with Elkonin boxes or Segmentation Sliders to segment sounds in words.  You can hand your child a fly swatter and have him whack the swatter as he segments each sound within the word.

How phonemic awareness activities evolve into reading and spelling activities

Before your child knows a lot about letters, he can know a lot about sounds, especially if you incorporate phonological awareness activities, such as rhyming and syllabication, and phonemic awareness activities into your everyday life.  But at some point, your child is going to recognize letters and develop alphabetic knowledge (linking letters to their sounds).  With a growing awareness of letters, your child’s phonemic awareness will likely grow exponentially.  This is the time to start incorporating letters into the phonemic awareness activities described above.  It will help develop his reading and spelling skills.

Parents: In your own experience, which activities mentioned above were best for developing phonemic awareness before your child developed much alphabetic knowledge?

 

 

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?

 

 

PHONEMIC AWARENESS – THE MOST IMPORTANT PRE-READING SKILL

There is SO much research showing that having strong phonemic awareness skills predicts future reading success.  Want an analogy?  Phonemic awareness is the foundation of reading success.  Just like a house cannot be built on a weak foundation, a strong reader rarely develops without phonemic awareness.

What is phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to analyze and manipulate individual sounds in words.  It is the ability to count the number of sounds; identify the beginning, middle and ending sounds; and segment, blend, add and delete sounds in words.  It is a more advanced sub-category of phonological awareness, which includes the skills of rhyming and syllabication.

phonemic awareness picture sort

A picture sort, examining the beginning sounds b, m, r and s. Notice there are no letters/words involved. This is an exceptional activity to develop phonemic awareness in pre-emergent and emergent readers.

The facts regarding phonemic awareness and reading success are cut and dry so it feels right to share them in list form.

1.  Development of phonemic awareness leads to improved reading ability.

2.  Poor readers at all ages are less phonemically aware than same-age good readers (Shaywitz, 1996).

3.  Children with poor phonemic awareness have trouble learning letter-sound relationships (aka alphabetic knowledge) and how to spell (Griffin, 1991; Juel, Griffith & Gough, 1986).

4.  Children who have poor phonemic awareness (and are consequently poor readers) in first grade typically remain poor readers in fourth grade (Juel, 1988).

5.  The more advanced forms of phonemic awareness (e.g. segmenting sounds) are more predictive of reading ability than simpler forms of phonological awareness, such as rhyming (Nation & Hulme, 1997).

6.  Instruction in reading is essential for the most advanced forms of phonemic awareness to develop.  In other words, knowing the letters and their sounds, make learning how to segment and blend sounds in words easier.

7.  In studies, phonemic awareness training in kindergarten and first-grade produces better readers and spellers, both at the completion the training period, as well as years down the road (Lungberg, Frost & Peterson, 1988).

8.  Phonemic awareness training with a component of discussion as to the importance of phonemic awareness and its application in reading is more effective than simply a “skill and drill” approach (Cunningham, 1990).

9.  Reading increases phonemic awareness, but reading is unlikely without a degree of phonemic awareness (Goswami & Bryant, 1990).  So the ideal instructional path is to develop some phonemic awareness, use it to develop reading skills, and then in turn develop even stronger phonemic awareness skills.

10.  When parents teach their children letters and their sounds (alphabetic knowledge), the children’s phonemic awareness improves (Crain-Thoreson & Dale, 1992).

Parents: For activity suggestions to develop phonemic awareness, check out my post, Activities to Build Phonemic Awareness.

Parents, what activities and strategies do you use at home to help your child develop phonemic awareness?  What has resulted in the most positive growth?  Please share your story.

References

Crain-Thoreson, C., & Dale, P. S.  (1992).  Do early talkers become early readers? Linguistic precocity, preschool language and emergent literacy.  Developmental Psychology, 28, 421-429.

Cunningham, A. E.  (1990).  Explicit versus implicit instruction in phonemic awareness.  Journal of Experimental Psychology50, 429-444.

Goswami, U., & Bryant, P. E.  (1990).  Phonological skills and learning to read.  Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Griffith, P. L.  (1991).  Phonemic awareness helps first graders invent spellings and third graders remember correct spellings.  Journal of Reading Behavior, 23, 215-233.

Juel, C.  (1988).  Learning to read and write: A longitudinal study of 54 children from first through fourth grades.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 417-447.

Juel, C., Griffith, P. L., & Gough, P. B.  (1986).  Acquisition of literacy: A longitudinal study of children in first and second grade.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 78, 243-255.

Lundberg, I., Frost, J., & Peterson, O.  (1988).  Effects of an extensive program for stimulating phonological awareness in preschool children.  Reading Research Quarterly, 23, 263-284.

Nation, K., & Hulme, C.  (1997).  Phonemic segmentation, not onset-rime segmentation, predicts early reading and spelling skills.  Reading Research Quarterly, 32, 154-167.

Shaywitz, S. E.  (1996).  Dyslexia.  Scientific American, 275(5), 98-104.

 

 

 

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.

DO PARENTS MADE GOOD TUTORS?

There is much debate on the topic of whether parents make good tutors.

Study #1

A study published by former Duke University researchers found that parents do not make good tutors for their middle school students for the following reasons:

1) the parents are unfamiliar with the academic content

2) the students want independence from their parents and are less open to academic support

Nancy Hill, a researcher in the study, said that because poor grades often serve as the impetus for parental tutoring there is a correlation between parental involvement and a decrease in academic achievement.  It makes you wonder had the parents provided tutoring before the poor grades emerged would there be a different effect.  Poor grades in middle school are often the result of a student’s poor reading skills.  What if the parent had provided reading tutoring in the early elementary grades when the student stood a much better chance of developing into a competent reader?

Study #2

A very small study conducted in 1979 looked at whether parents of first-grade students could affect positive reading growth in their children after nine weeks of tutoring.  Parents received three hours’ of training in tutoring techniques.  It is unclear what those techniques were.  The students who received tutoring from their parents made no significant growth in reading skills compared to the students in the control group.

Study #3

However, another researcher found parents of third-grade students were effective tutors of oral reading techniques.  Parents received six hours’ of training and materials for tutoring.  In a survey that was part of the study, parents stated that the school should help parents find ways to boost their children’s reading achievement.  My conclusion is that parents are more willing to tutor if support and training by qualified educators is available.

My Opinion

I argue that parents make good tutors when they start tutoring their children when they are in kindergarten through second grade.  Why?

1.  The child, if delayed in or struggling with literacy, is not that far behind grade level.

2.  Most early elementary children still have a positive attitude toward learning and school.

3.  The child is more open to receiving support from their parents (than at an older age).

4.  The child’s brain and learning pathways remain very pliable.  Consequently, it is easier to learn to read well (aka efficiently) when in the early elementary years.

Ultimately, for parents to make good tutors, they must be provided with appropriate materials and trained how to use them.  Additionally, they need to be able to receive feedback from a qualified educator.  The hardest challenge for parents wanting to tutor their children is knowing where to begin.  To really contribute to your child’s reading development, you need to find a reading specialist who can serve as your mentor.

Hill NE, Tyson DF. Parental involvement in middle school: A meta-analytic assessment of the strategies that promote achievement. Developmental Psychology. 2009;45:740–763.

Jacobowitz, SE.  Tutoring by Parents of Their Children in First Grade.  M.Ed Thesis at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. 1979.

MacDonald CA, Parents as tutors of their own children: Effects of reading strategies on third-grade students. January 1, 1994. Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. Paper AAI9434509.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI9434509