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The Five-Word Guide for Finding Books at Your Child’s Level

The Five-Word Guide for Finding Books at Your Child’s Level

As children’s librarians, we are often asked to help people find books for children in a particular grade or at a specific reading level. 

While a number of different resources exist to measure a book’s approximate level, they can vary a great deal and are not always the most accessible way to help you find the right books for your child. Not every fourth grader reads at the same level, for example, and different publishers use different leveling systems.

So, here’s a simple test you can use to see if a book is at your child’s reading level:

  1. Have them find a book that catches their interest, flip it open to a random page, and ask them to read the page.
  2. If your child comes across 0-1 words that they don’t know, the book would likely be easy for them to read … maybe even too easy. 
  3. If they find 2-3 words that they don’t know, the book is probably just right for their level!
  4.  If they find 4-5 or more words they don’t know and can’t figure out, the book will probably be a little frustrating for them and might be too hard to read independently.

That said, we never want to dampen a child’s enthusiasm for a book they are excited to read! If a book falls into the “might be too easy” category, let them enjoy a quick, fun read that lets them feel successful. Look for another more challenging book with similar subject matter next time. If a book falls into the “might be too hard” category – but they really, really want to try it! – offer to read it with them or be available to help them with words they don’t know. Let them know that it might be a challenge, but that’s how they grow as readers.

Most of all, let your child lead the way. Children – like all of us – are much more likely to be excited to read books that interest them than they will be to read books that are at their reading level, but on topics they find boring. If you’re having trouble finding that sweet spot, your friendly librarians are here to help!

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Written by Carolyn L., Youth Services Programming and Outreach Coordinator

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