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Don’t be confused by Reading Levels

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How do you know what reading level your child is on? For parents that’s a tough question but for teachers it’s easy.

Parents are bombarded by books from the library that all have their own system. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these books are great. But “I Can Read” is different from “Step into Reading” which is different from  “Bob Books”. So saying your kid can read “level 2” is pretty meaningless. Level 2 of what?

Teachers are bombarded too. There are a gazillion ways to measure reading level. But if you have the right tool, it’s easy. Here are some examples:

As a former teacher/parent, I’m most interested in my kids’ Guided Reading Level. I even have many of our books marked. If my kid can read a book marked J, then I immediately know he’s at the J reading level.

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But let’s make things even easier! Here are some guidelines to help you ferret out your child’s reading level in general.

Entering Kindergarten: Knows many letters and a few sounds.

Exiting Kindergarten: Able to read about 25 words. A good goal would be to be able to read Level 1 Bob Books.

First Grade: Able to read simple sentences. Not a lot of stamina. A good goal would be to read Bob Books Levels 2-4 or some of Dr. Seuss.

Second Grade: Working on stamina. A good goal would be to read “Frog and Toad are Friends” by Christmas, and “Magic Tree House” by June.

Third Grade: This is a BIG year! Third grade is when kids jump from “learning to read” to “reading to learn“. By third grade, kids should be able to read chapter books like “Ramona Quimby Age 8”.

Fourth Grade: Chapter books with deeper complexity. The books are harder and the critical thinking capabilities are too. Check out The CIA Approach for more ideas.

All kids progress at different levels. So don’t freak out if your child is progressing in a way that’s different from the spectrum I just presented. But if you do have further concerns, click here for help.

Keeping Track of Bob Books

A quick little note means so much.

A quick little note means so much.

I know you aren’t supposed to compare children. I know, I know, I know!

But I’m so glad that four years ago, I had the foresight to jot down a few notes on the back of the envelopes I made to store each homemade Bob Book game.  Most importantly, I wrote down the date when my son Bruce finished reading each book.

Now, four years later, I have a rough idea about what track my daughter Jenna is on.  They both finished the same Bob Book at approximately exactly the same age.

Will she be reading Magic Tree House Books in Kindergarten like her brother Bruce?  Will she be cranking through Harry Potter at age six?  Who knows.  What I do know, is that at the moment, Jenna’s reading development is almost identical to her brother’s progress.

Is this related to my teaching strategies?  Again, I have no idea.  I wish I could tell you.

Logic Cards for Preschoolers

Here’s a fun, fun game our whole family played at dinner tonight.

Putting one card at a time in the middle of the dinner table, I gave the prompt: “Which one is different?”  Jenna(3) gave the answers.  Bruce(7) was the person who got to say “You are correct!”

(If you click on the pictures they will get bigger.)

The cards got progressively harder, but only a few of them were too hard for Jenna.  She loved this activity.

None of the cards were too hard for Bruce.  He was kind of disappointed that I didn’t have a set designed for him, so that’s my goal for tomorrow.


The cards were super easy to make using these stamp thing-a-ma-jiggers that Jenna got for Christmas.  She did art while I made a bunch of learning tools for the future.

One final note.  Anyone familiar with the CogAT can probably see the way my mind is working…

Unofficial K-2 CogAT Practice

I created practice sheets like these for my son and a couple of his friends when they took the CogAT 6 last fall. I made these worksheets after reading everything I could about IQ assessments in general, after having seen the uber expensive booklet Mercer Publishing puts out, and using my background as a teacher. I do not want to any way comprise the CogAT screening process, but let’s face it. If there is already a $45 test prep book out there, than it is already not a level playing field for children.

Here are two examples of ways you can prepare a K-2 child for the nonverbal section of tests like the CogAT. Please feel free to print these out and use them at home. I suggest making a whole bunch more practice sheets on your own. If you do so, please send me a jpeg so I can include your examples in this post. Thanks!

ABC Activity and Assessment

Jenna and I bought these ABC stickers at the craft-store a few days agof for $3.  They are absolutely awful for toddlers, in that they are hard to take off the sheet, and have little holes to punch out to make the letters look right.  Oh yeah, and they are choking hazards!  But if you get past all of that, then it does become a fun activity to do with a 22 month old.  We sat at Jenna’s little table and chairs for about twenty minutes punching out letters and sticking them places, including her paper on occasion.

I started out trying to make simple words with her, like her name and some -at words.  Clearly she wasn’t ready for this, so I moved to to simple letter and sound identification.  On that, she totally rocked!  Jenna now knows almost all of her uppercase letters, and can supply their sounds if you sing the song from the Leap Frog Letter Factory video.  “The A says ah, they A says ah, Every letter makes a sound the A says ah.”  This turned out to be a really good way to conduct an accurate assessment of what she knows.  I feel like this was $3 well spent!

Reading Assessments

Have you ever wondered what reading level your child is on? The easiest and cheapest way to assess this is to find a book your child is already able to read easily, and then to look up its corresponding level on a Guided Reading site.  You can find more information about how to do this in one of my previous posts: https://teachingmybabytoread.com/2011/03/01/guided-reading-levels/

If you want a more formal assessment, or if you are keeping a record book of your child’s progress, you might want to invest in an official reading assessment book.  These will provide you with several three minute assessments where your child reads a passage aloud and you mark down errors and mistakes on a corresponding piece of paper.  This can also help you analyze any error patterns your child might be making.

Here is an example of an assessment book that I have at home:


3-Minute Reading Assessments: Word Recognition, Fluency, and Comprehension: Grades 1-4 (Three-minute Reading Assessments)

One caveat about this book, and these types of assessments, is that they often show a child reading a grade level above what they would actually be able to do in real life.  For example, Bruce tested at the fourth grade level on one of these tests, back in fall when I knew as a teacher he was only reading at the entering second grade level.  Just because he could sustain a fourth grade passage for three minutes, did not mean (at that point) that he could read an entire fourth grade chapter  book to himself.