Tools to Teach You How to Determine Reading Level of a Book

Learning how to determine reading level of a book helps you find appropriate books for your child and challenge their abilities.

When choosing children's books, the reading level of the book can be pretty important. You want to challenge children to read a bit higher than they think they can while not discouraging them with books that are too difficult. 

Whether you have beginning readers or advanced readers in your life, learning how to determine the reading level of a book is a valuable tool. Thankfully, parents and educators have a number of tools available to help them.

This guide will discuss what reading levels are, how to find them and how you can ensure that the books you offer are suitable for the children in your life.

Tips on How To Determine Reading Level Of A Book

How to determine reading level of a book?

So how can you determine the reading level of a book? Before delving into the tools available to help you find a book that your child can read, first, you must understand what reading level is.

What is Reading Level?

The reading level of a book determines how well a child can read it independently. Unfortunately, reading level is often confused with grade level, so a book with a fourth-grade reading level is designed with vocabulary and syntax that the average fourth grader can understand. 

However, it is not always as simple as picking a book that is leveled at your child's grade level. Your child's teacher can tell you that students fit into a wide range of levels, even within the same classroom. 

As your child's reading skills develop, you're going to need to find reading materials that match. Knowing how to read reading levels will help.

Why Reading Level is Important

Children who are learning to read need to have a text they can read successfully. If text is too easy, the child gets bored. If the text is too hard, the child gets frustrated.

This balance is where the reading level helps. Finding a book that matches your child's abilities and interests will encourage successful reading, and reading level is key to that.

Reading Level and Interest Level

How to determine reading level of a book?
Adding interest level to your decision-making will help guide you to the books they will be most interested in reading

Another benchmark you can check into is interest level. This metric shows how interesting a particular book is likely to be to your child based on their age or grade level.

If a child is particularly behind or advanced in reading level, finding books they want to read but match their reading level becomes more challenging. Adding interest level to your decision-making will help guide you to the books they will be most interested in reading.

Common Measures for Reading Levels

Many tools measure reading levels. As you learn how to determine the reading level of a book, you will find that these tools make the job a lot easier, so you can find a book that fits the child's reading level. Here are some popular reading systems to consider.

1. Fountas-Pinnell Guided Reading Level

Fountas and Pinnell created the Guided Reading Level. This leveled reading system assigns a level to individual books. Factors that impact that level include repetition of words, the complexity of sentences, and sentence length. 

This program uses specialized reading lists with books that already have a grade level measure.

2. Grade Level Equivalent

The Grade Level Equivalent leveled reading system assigns an actual grade level to the book based on what students typically can read at a particular stage of their education. This metric is labeled with a decimal point, where the first number is the grade level, and the number after the decimal point indicates the number of months into the school year the student would be. So, a score of 2.1 means second grade one month into the school year.

For parents that are new to reading levels, this can be a helpful metric as it shows a level they can easily relate to their student's age and grade. However, parents need to realize that students develop their reading abilities at different speeds, so any particular child may read at, above, or below the published reading level.

3. Developmental Reading Assessment

The Developmental Reading Assessment, or DRA, assesses a child's reading ability through a reading test. It then gives the student a score based on that test. Factors it checks include:

  • Phonemic awareness
  • Alphabetic principles/phonics
  • Fluency
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension
  • Reading engagement

Books are given corresponding scores based on text complexity and vocabulary. Thus, teachers and parents can easily connect students to books that fit their abilities after taking the test by lining up the test scores with the scores of the book.

4. Lexile Framework for Reading

The Lexile Framework is a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development metric. It uses Scholastic Inventory Test scores to evaluate text and determine what reading level it is. 

To use the Lexile Framework, students must take a standard test or the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI). This then matches them with a reading level that matches their ability.

You can look up the Lexile level of a book online on the Lexile website.

5. Accelerated Reader Book Levels

Accelerated Reader is a complex readability formula that rates text complexity. It uses grade level ratings to indicate what year and month a student could read a book independently. 

Accelerated Reader is different from straight grade level equivalents because it uses interest level as well. This indicates if the content of a book is age-appropriate for the particular grade level. 

Tools to Find the Reading Level of a Book

Understanding the different reading tests and reading level measures is important, but it does not help you learn how to determine the reading level of a book when your child wants to read something. Thankfully, you have several tools at your disposal to help. 

1. Scholastic's Book Wizard

Scholastic offers a book wizard tool that has over 65,000 children's books in the database. You can search using the title and author to find an individual book's reading level. If you are looking for recommendations for your child, you can search by reading level, subject, grade level, or genre and get a list of suggestions. 

2. Renaissance ATOS Analyzer

If you can't find your book or text in another tool, you can copy a portion of the text into the ATOS Analyzer to see how it rates. This tool uses a readability formula to tell you how easy something is to read. It also merges with the Lexile measure, so you can search for individual books if they are in the database.

3. Lexile Look Up

Lexile's online tool lets you search for a book by its ISBN. Just enter the number on the Quick Book Search to see if it is in the database. The website also allows you to look at a list of books based on your child's reading level.

4. Accelerated Reader Search Tool

The AR search tool lets you search for a particular book's readability, Lexile level, and interest level. It reports a grade level based on whether or not a child will be challenged in the reading but not frustrated.

5. Correlation Chart

The Correlation Chart is part of the State of Washington public library system. It lets you find the reading level of a book, then use the tool to compare that to the reading level in another measurement. If you are looking for a specific measure but know another one, this tool can help you compare.

A Final Word on How to Determine Reading Level of a Book

Reading levels help you choose books for your child that fit their interests and abilities. You can avoid frustration and boredom by selecting appropriate books. Using reading levels also encourages more independent reading, especially with young readers. 

Parents can sometimes struggle with finding reading levels for different books, but using a book's ISBN, you can search in several tools that have book lists based on reading level. Using these tools and asking your child's teacher what their current reading level is will allow you to choose the right reading material for your child.

FAQs About how to Determine Reading Level of a Book

How to find the reading level of a book?

Using different tools, such as the Scholastic Book Wizard or the Accelerated Reader Search Tool, you can learn the reading level of many children's books to help you choose appropriate reading options for your child.

How to determine my child's Lexile reading level?

If your child is at school, they will be tested each year under their standardized testing program. This testing will give your child a Lexile reader measure. Simply ask your child's teacher or check their standardized test score report to learn your child's measure.

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.

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