First and foremost, understanding where your child is in the process of learning how to read will help you gauge what books to begin exploring with them. Speak with their teachers as they grow and ask for the best ways to support your child at home. Some questions to consider when speaking with your child’s teacher are:
- What genres should my child try?
- What types of books (chapter, graphic novels, or picture books) are best for where they are currently?
- What other methods can we incorporate into our reading routine to better support them?
Repetition and regular reading is imperative to fostering a love of reading. “Voluminous reading is key to helping a child acquire both vocabulary and knowledge,” says Burke. “Oral language and conversations that are rich in ideas and concepts are key to building background knowledge and building confidence.”
Next, you’ll want to gain a better understanding of what exactly reading levels are, not to mention how to determine reading level.
Reading level systems use a wide variety of assessments to determine how well your child reads — and then match their level with the appropriate books (which are categorized by level of difficulty).
Guided reading levels are used primarily by teachers in schools to help match your child with the right books. Talk to your child's teacher about reading levels and look for corresponding books once they’ve been tested for their level. Reading levels are often helpfully provided on the reading jacket of a book to make choosing a lot easier. In The Scholastic Store, a book's reading level can also be found in each book's “Product Details” for convenience.
There are a variety of factors that determine how a book is leveled. Adria Klein, PhD, co-creator of the Scholastic Edge reading program and professor emerita of reading education at California State University San Bernardino, has identified the top focal points for how reading levels are chosen for books throughout her teaching career:
- Text structure
- Content and theme
- Complex sentences
- Vocabulary words and phrases
These factors all come together when a book is being leveled, and can make a huge difference in how your child reads, understands, and retains the information within.
Sometimes, kids avoid books not because they're the wrong level — but because they simply aren't interested in the topic. In fact, 42 percent of kids have trouble finding books they like, according to the Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report. If you've found a book you believe is at your child's reading level but they're not picking it up, looking for what sparks the most joy for your child is essential to finding the right book match for them.
“Have children pick books that interest them,” says Burke. “Have them read various books with the same theme or topic. Reading every day is critical to improving skills.”
For instance, a series like Who Would Win? or I Survived are perfect for children who are fascinated by real-world events or STEM topics. Meanwhile, titles in the Owl Diaries series are great for kids who love animal stories and Animorphs will delight science fiction fans.
Try exploring different genres — whether fiction, nonfiction, or anything in between — and see which ones keep your child coming back for more.
Having a full range of diverse books is very important and helpful in your child’s reading development. Beginning with picture books at an early age develops reading comprehension by allowing children to make connections between the visuals and the text.
Graphic novels like those in the Dog Man, The Baby-Sitters Club, and Wings of Fire series can be a great next step when readers are graduating from picture books to chapter books, but offer many advantages to readers of all levels. Some parents assume that graphic novels are “easy” books, but they can actually introduce your child to more complex vocabulary and ideas, fostering further reading comprehension while introducing children to a range of literary devices.
And, when your child is ready, chapter books will introduce them to broader character development and long-form stories. Finding the right series will further develop their love of reading.
Shop popular books across reading levels below! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store.
For more tips on finding books at the right level for your child, visit our guide on reading levels for kids.