Many children in kindergarten, grade one and two may be discussing reading levels, and comparing themselves to their peers. Reading levels are a popular discussion topic at September curriculum nights and at parent-teacher interviews. The best way to describe what the levels mean is to start with why school readers are leveled in the first place.
The levels are in place so that teachers can match children with books that are ‘just right’ for the reading skills they have. If a book is too easy, there will be no opportunity for teaching children the problem solving necessary to challenge them to continue to grow as readers.
If a book is too hard, a child spends so much time and effort struggling through difficult words or passages that all meaning and enjoyment is lost. Leveling depends on a number of factors, and each level gradually gives the reader more of a challenge in a developmentally appropriate sequence.
It is very important to avoid the level trap, particularly in a child's early education, as anxiety is a deterrent to reading.
Imagine walking around with the size label on the outside of your jeans, and hearing your friends’ parents discussing it at the bus stop. Attention to book levels does not serve children well because it always ends up feeling like a competition to someone. Children only pay attention to the levels on the books or realize their significance if others deem them important.
Send the message that people read for real purposes, like reading instructions to learn how to do something, reading stories for enjoyment or reading research for needed information.
Ignoring or casually shifting reading level talk rather than firmly shutting down a conversation tends to draw less attention. Questions or concerns can then be brought up with the teacher privately.
While there are many great leveled books out there, enjoying print means playing some reading games or listening to a great book that's above the child's own reading level, too. Part of teaching children about reading is teaching them to look at the benefits of it over a lifetime and creating great memories, now.
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