How to Decode Reading Levels

February 17, 2023

Decode Reading Levels

Knowing a child’s reading level can help parents understand if their child is meeting, exceeding or falling behind grade-level expectations and benchmarks. How can parents understand their child’s reading level, and what level is the right level for each grade?

Parents can learn how to decode reading levels to better understand a child’s reading proficiency or identify reading struggles. Reading levels can be denoted in three different ways:

  • Lexile
  • Letters
  • Grade-level

Lexile: The Reading Level in Numbers

Lexile refers to the Lexile Framework of Reading. Parents might see their child’s reading level correlated to numerical value, this is typically the Lexile.

Each reading level equates to different Lexile levels. Typically, this is given in a range and might span a few grade levels (as children can read below their level and/or sometimes slightly above). The Lexile can go up to about 1700 (this denotes advanced reading levels).

Scholastic offers a chart that shows how Lexile correlates to grade levels. Using the chart, a parent can compare their child’s Lexile score or range to find out the grade-level equivalent. This can help parents understand if their child is reading near or at grade-level.

Lettered Reading Levels

Programs like Raz-Kids use a lettered base reading level for elementary school readers. Scholastic uses a similar method.

Again, parents can correlate the lettered reading level to the Lexile or the grade via Scholastic’s chart. This helps parents know how each reading level relates to grade-level.

Grade-Level Reading Levels

Many schools test reading proficiency of students using STAR Reading (from Renaissance Learning). Students take timed reading tests that assess their fluency and comprehension. Reports that detail their scores are periodically sent home to help parents understand their child’s reading level and reading growth.

STAR Reports also might show how students score in relation to other students in their grade level. This is denoted as a percentage; scoring in the 50th percentile means that the child reads at a level greater than 50 percent of students in the same grade.

STAR Reports might include the grade-level reading levels. This might be given in a range to show parents what books are most appropriate. Parents also could see a bar graph that denotes the child’s proficiency in relation to grade-level benchmarks; this could denote that the child is reading at the appropriate level, is ‘on watch’ or is reading at a level where intervention might be necessary.

If parents have questions or concerns about their child’s reading level or reading data as it relates to the STAR report, they can contact their child’s teacher. Parents might notice that their child’s reading level has suddenly fallen. Sometimes a child has an off day, is excited about winter vacation or might not be feeling well and these factors could impact their reading test and reading score. However, if parents are concerned, they shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to the teacher.

How Reading Level Information is Helpful at Home

Reading regularly can help children gain confidence and reading proficiency, but it’s important that parents help children find books at the appropriate level if children are reading independently. Choosing a book that is too difficult could cause the child to feel frustrated, lose interest or simply not understand what they are reading.

Parents should encourage children to choose books that interest them, but books also should be at the appropriate reading level for the child. When parents take children to a public library, they can research a book’s reading level in the library’s system. In school libraries, books might be marked with the appropriate reading level or Lexile.

Decode Reading Levels

Accelerated Reader and Reading Levels

The program Accelerated Reader (AR) is used in many schools to help gauge a child’s reading comprehension. Accelerated Reader offers comprehension quizzes; children earn points in the program when they receive a certain score on their quiz (teachers might set the accepted score). Teachers might offer prizes that correlate when children reach certain AR point milestones.

Not all books are included in the AR program. To find out if a child can take an AR quiz for a book, parents can use the program’s Bookfinder search tool. Parents can look up books by title or author or use more advanced search options.

If a book is included in the program, parents also can review the point level value of the book and the reading level (including the grade-level reading level). In addition, the AR Book Finder tool includes a basic plot summary and information about mature content.

Longer books typically offer more AR points. In addition, books written at higher reading levels also could offer more points for quizzes.

Reading Levels and Audio Books

When children are reading a book independently, choosing the right reading level is important to ensure the child can understand what they read and that they don’t get frustrated with content that is beyond their ability. However, if a child is listening to an audiobook, Reading Rockets explains that they might be able to enjoy books beyond their level.

Audiobooks are books that are narrated or read aloud. These books can help children discern action and emotions in a story, too. If children are listening to a book that is beyond their reading level, they also could be exposed to new words (and expand their vocabulary). In addition, Reading Rockets lists several other advantages and benefits of these auditory stories.

Parents can find audiobooks via book reader apps (these are typically pre-loaded onto smartphones) or via apps like Audible. Public libraries also could offer audiobooks for check-out.

Decode Reading Levels

Use a Reading Program at Home to Help Children Boost Their Reading Level

If a child is reading below grade level expectations, parents might wonder how they can help their child gain proficiency and meet grade-level benchmarks. Reading programs like Readability can be used at home to help children practice their reading skills and improve their comprehension.

Readability can be used from kindergarten through sixth grade, and it offers a 24/7 built-in AI tutor that is programmed with voice recognition software. Children read books and stories aloud through the program, and, as the child reads, the tutor learns their voice. If a child cannot pronounce a word or pronounces a word incorrectly, the tutor understands the error and provides help.

The tutor also measures the child’s reading fluency as they read aloud. Fluency is measured in words read per minute (minus errors). In addition, the AI tutor asks children questions at the end of each book to measure their comprehension related to what they read. If they answer a question incorrectly, the tutor shows them the section from the story that provides a hint about the answer. The tutor reads the section aloud and gives the child another opportunity to answer the question.

When children begin using Readability, parents can set their child’s benchmark reading level. If parents are unsure about their child’s appropriate reading level, the program can work with the child to determine the best level to begin reading lessons.

To follow their child’s reading progress, parents have access to a private portal that displays their child’s reading data. Parents can view their child’s current reading level, their comprehension and the child’s reading fluency. In addition, parents also can see how long their child used the program.

Parents who are interested in using a reading program to help their child boost their reading level can sign up for a free seven-day trial with Readability. The trial period provides access to all the program’s features, and the child can work with the AI reading tutor. Sign up for a trial period today to explore how Readability can help a child grow their reading confidence and improve their reading proficiency.