Understanding Reading Levels & How They Are Assessed | Prodigy (2023)

When your child is first learning to read, reading levels are an important tool for helping them move forward without the struggle. But did you know even older readers can benefit from being matched with the appropriate reading level?

In this article, we’ll discuss how reading levels are used and how your child’s level is determined. With the right reading materials, your child can master reading and enjoy it for years to come!

What are reading levels?

Reading levels are a detailed way to pair your child’s reading ability with books they can successfully read and understand.

Reading levels are an effective way to measure a child’s reading progress. If your child is primarily reading books at or just above their determined reading level, they are more likely to find reading enjoyable.

As parents, we’ve all seen how reading can become frustrating. If a beginner reader tries to read a book that is far beyond their abilities, they may simply decide that reading is just too hard. And this frustration can create an overall dislike of reading and books. This is what leveled reading strives to avoid.

How is your child’s reading level assessed?

There are several different methods for measuring your child’s reading skills and classifying the books they will read.

We’ll be discussing the four most popular leveling systems in the next sections. Read on for the details on the GRL, DRA, AR and Lexile reading level measurements.

Guided reading levels (GRL) explained

Guided reading levels, or GRL, are based on the reading levels system developed by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. For this reason, you’ll also often see GRL called Fountas & Pinnell.

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This system classifies reading levels alphabetically from A to Z, with A corresponding to the earliest readers and Z falling in line with texts at or above an eighth grade level.

Books are grouped into the appropriate level based on the following considerations:

  • Word repetition
  • Sentence length
  • Total word count
  • Sentence complexity
  • Number of different words
  • Inclusion of supportive illustrations
  • Amount of high-frequency (or most common) words

Because several GRL levels fall into each grade level, this is a precise way to classify reading materials. Not all second graders read at one level. But when second grade is split between levels I, J, K, L and M, more children will be able to find the right books to keep their motivation and confidence high.

Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA)

The DRA, or Developmental Reading Assessment, helps identify how well students are reading independently.

This system matches the child with books on a numbered reading scale from 1 to 80 (it actually starts with A, but then all other levels are numbered. Confusing — yes, but unless your child is at the very beginning of reading, look for a number).

Your child’s score on the assessment is based on how well they perform against grade-level standards. The DRA looks at your child’s reading ability in three areas.

  • Reading fluency
  • Reading accuracy
  • Reading comprehension

Like GRL, the different grade levels contain several DRA levels. For example, second grade includes DRA levels 18 to 28. Once your child’s reading level is determined, they will be paired with leveled books to help them progress and improve.

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Lexile measurement

The Lexile framework for reading is a measurement system that includes two different measures — both a student assessment and a system for measuring book levels. Your child’s Lexile reading measure is determined from a school or state-wide test that checks for reading comprehension.

A Lexile reader measurement can fall between BR for beginning readers (which is below 0L), to above 2000L. Your child’s reading level can then be paired with books using their Lexile text measurement.

Over one million books, websites and other texts have received a Lexile text measure. Lexile recommends choosing books or texts for your child that fall between 100L below to 50L above their reading measure. This is deemed your child’s reading comprehension sweet spot.

Don’t know where your child falls? Talk to their teacher to see if their school uses the Lexile assessment. If so, they can provide you with your child’s most current measure.

The Lexile framework is great for pairing more advanced readers with books that are still age-appropriate. If your child is reading above their level in the third grade, you don’t necessarily want them reading books with themes meant for seventh graders. Ask their teacher or use the Lexile website to discover age-appropriate books that will still hold their interest.

Accelerated Reader (AR) Levels

Your child’s Accelerated Reader (or AR) level is determined from a computerized test. After reading a book of their choosing, your child takes an online test on the book to measure their reading comprehension and earn points.

Based on the test score, your child’s teacher or librarian can help recommend more books to match your child’s level. If they struggled with their last book, easier options will be given. If they had zero trouble understanding the book, they’ll be encouraged to choose more difficult texts moving forward.

The AR reading levels fall on a numeric scale that closely correspond with expected grade levels. A second grader in the fourth month of the school year will, on average, be reading books at level 2.4. A fourth grader in the first month of the year will average level 4.1, and so on.

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Reading level correlation chart

We’ve discussed several different reading measures, but how do they correspond with expected grade levels? And how does each measure relate to the others?

Use this handy chart from Reading A-Z to see how your child’s reading level fits into the different systems. Or check out the one below from Traci Clausen.

Understanding Reading Levels & How They Are Assessed | Prodigy (3)Understanding Reading Levels & How They Are Assessed | Prodigy (4)

Reading level FAQs

1. How can I find level-appropriate books for my child?

First, ask their teacher or the school’s librarian for recommendations. They know your child’s interest and reading ability better than any computer resource. They will also be up to date on children’s books, including what is on level but also age-appropriate for your child.

There are some great resources online for finding leveled readers your child will love:

2. How can I help my child improve their reading?

The short answer — encourage them to keep reading, whether they’re using books or online programs.

The more exposure they have to books, the better. Just be sure to choose book topics that lineup with their interests. Does your second grader love dragons? Try a simple fantasy chapter book. Does your fourth grader adore lemurs? Look for children’s non-fiction books about the creatures of Madagascar. If it’s something they’re interested in, they’ll be excited to read and learn.

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If it’s a struggle to get your child to pick up a book, don’t stress! There’s reading to be found everywhere. Instead of arguing over reading time, invite your child to play an online game. Role-playing games (and even those online mini-games) require a good amount of reading. Or choose educational language arts games like Prodigy English. Games keep learning fun, and when your child loves learning and reading, they’ll be set for life!

3. What should I do if my child is struggling with reading?

First off, take a deep breath. There is so much pressure on both kids and parents to be reading earlier and earlier. It’s okay if your kindergartener isn’t reading yet. If your third grader is reading at a second grade level, they’ll catch up. Your primary role as a parent is to encourage them to keep trying, and keep their confidence and joy of reading top of mind.

To help encourage young or struggling readers, match them with books they are excited to read. Take them to your local library and let them choose the books that call to them.

If a book is beyond their level, but they just have to have it, let them enjoy it. It may be just the challenge they need, or they may simply enjoy the pictures. If it’s too tricky, let them know that you’re available to help. Your child is never too old to enjoy a read-aloud.

And don’t forget the reading that happens every day. Have them help you read the recipe for tonight’s dinner. Or ask them to show you their newest video game. Listen as they explain the characters and stories. Reading comprehension presents itself in a variety of ways outside of books and standardized testing.

Above all, remember your child is learning so much more than their reading level score can show. Reading levels can be a great tool, but they are not the only measure of your child’s reading ability. Follow your child’s lead, take the pressure off and watch them grow into reading in their own way.

Understanding Reading Levels & How They Are Assessed | Prodigy (5)Understanding Reading Levels & How They Are Assessed | Prodigy (6)

Reading games and activities can help supplement coursework

Reading can be so much fun! It’s too easy to get caught up in grade levels, whether your child is “ahead” or “behind”. All of this can make us lose track of the magic a good story holds.

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Bring some of that magic back with fun reading games and activities your kids will love. There are so many ways to read, explore and learn together.

Explore a fun, game-based learning adventure with Prodigy English. While kids play, they'll explore a world of their very own, gathering resources and earning rewards. Every skill-building question they answer gives them more energy to get creative and keep learning!

Sign up for a free parent account today to track and motivate their learning.

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How do you assess reading levels? ›

The three most common assessment tools are the Lexile Measures, the DRA Levels (Development Reading Assessment) and the Guided Reading levels. Each of these tools varies in complexity and administration, but each will attempt to help educators and parents gain insight into a child's reading skills.

Why is it important to know a students reading level? ›

The teacher's knowledge of the child's reading level allows them to gently guide and support the child's choices, while also understanding that a child will experience a variety of levels of text throughout the day in different instructional contexts like interactive read-aloud, shared reading, book clubs, independent ...

How is a child's reading level determined? ›

After reading a book of their choosing, your child takes an online test on the book to measure their reading comprehension and earn points. Based on the test score, your child's teacher or librarian can help recommend more books to match your child's level.

What are levels of reading comprehension explain each briefly with suitable examples? ›

Four levels of reading are elementary, inspectional, analytical, and syntopic. Elementary reading is a basic step of reading which you learn to do in schools. It is when you don't understand what is written and trying to understand word by word. An example is something written in any foreign language you don't know.

What are the 4 types of assessment? ›

A Guide to Types of Assessment: Diagnostic, Formative, Interim, and Summative.

How do you assess reading difficulties? ›

How to Assess Reading Difficulties for Students: Skills that Predict Word-Level Reading
  1. Letter sound knowledge.
  2. Phonemic blending (“I would not ever want to do a reading evaluation without [the CTOPP-2] battery,” says David Kilpatrick)
  3. Letter-sound proficiency.
  4. Phonemic analysis proficiency.
  5. Rapid automatized naming.

How do you assess students reading skills? ›

The most common example of an assessment for fluency is to ask a student to read a passage aloud for one minute. Words that are skipped or pronounced incorrectly are not counted. The number of correct words read is counted and this total equals a student's oral reading fluency rate.

What do reading levels tell us about students? ›

A reading-level assessment is one way to measure a student's level of decoding and comprehension. Factors like word count, number of different words and high-frequency words, word repetitions, sentence length, and complexity give us valuable information about students' strengths.

How can students improve their reading level? ›

Establish a reading time, even if it is only ten minutes a day. Write notes to your school-age child; encourage written responses. Ask your child to bring a library book home to read to a younger sibling. Establish one evening a week for reading (instead of television viewing).

What are the 5 levels of reading? ›

The five stages of literacy development include emergent literacy, alphabetic fluency, words and patterns, intermediate reading, and advanced reading.

What reading level should a 2nd grader be on? ›

A 2nd grader should be at a DRA level of 28-38. This is the expected range for reading fluency and comprehension in this grade level. At this stage, children are beginning to read longer texts with more complex sentence structures and can comprehend multiple ideas within one text.

What reading level should a 1st grader be on? ›

Entering first graders should be able to: Read 80-100 Kindergarten Sight Words (see OCPS sight word list link) Identify all uppercase and lowercase letters. Identify all letters and their sounds.

What are the levels of understanding? ›

There are three levels of understanding: literal, inferential, and propositional. Literal comprehension is the basic understanding of the text, often answered by questions such as who, what, when, and where. Inferential comprehension requires the reader to link ideas within the text that are not explicitly stated.

What are the three levels of understanding in reading comprehension? ›

Literal, inferential and evaluative levels of comprehension.

What are the four levels of meaning that you should be aware of a reader? ›

Having begun to read, good readers operate cognitively at four highly interrelated and overl~apping levels of meaning : the literal, the interpretive, the critical, and the creative.

What are the 5 methods of assessment? ›

Understanding the 5 assessment types
  • Summative assessment (knowing what you know) ...
  • Formative assessment (knowing what you don't know) ...
  • Diagnostic assessment (knowing if there's a gap) ...
  • Benchmarking assessment (knowing how you compare) ...
  • Continual assessment (knowing how you're tracking)
Sep 29, 2021

What are the three main methods of assessment? ›

There are three types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative. Although are three are generally referred to simply as assessment, there are distinct differences between the three. There are three types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative.

What are the assessment methods? ›

Assessment methods define the nature of the assessor actions and include examine, interview, and test. The examine method is the process of reviewing, inspecting, observing, studying, or analyzing one or more assessment objects (i.e., specifications, mechanisms, or activities).

How do teachers identify struggling readers? ›

What to look for:
  • Difficulty rhyming.
  • Difficulty hearing individual sounds.
  • Difficulty following directions.
  • Difficulty re-telling a story.
  • Struggles to sound out most words.
  • Avoids reading aloud.

What is reading assessment tools? ›

A running record is a tool for assessing a student's reading while they are reading (Barone et al 2020; Clay, 1993). A running record of reading behaviours provides information on: a score of word reading accuracy. an analysis of a reader's errors and self-corrections. an analysis of the reading strategies used.

What is the root cause of poor reading comprehension? ›

Some major causes of poor reading comprehension include ADHD, dyslexia, difficult text, limited vocabulary, working memory deficit, and more. You may also have trouble comprehending what you're reading if you are disinterested or bored.

How do you analyze reading comprehension? ›

The following are seven simple strategies you can use to work on your comprehension skills:
  1. Improve your vocabulary. ...
  2. Come up with questions about the text you are reading. ...
  3. Use context clues. ...
  4. Look for the main idea. ...
  5. Write a summary of what you read. ...
  6. Break up the reading into smaller sections. ...
  7. Pace yourself.
Mar 10, 2023

What is an example of a screening assessment for reading? ›

One type of useful screening assessment involves curriculum-based measures (CBMs). Examples include DIBELS Next or Aimsweb. Diagnostic assessments are used to assess specific skills or components of reading such as phonemic awareness, phonics skills, and fluency.

What is the reading level indicator? ›

The RLI is an unsecured test used to estimate a student's NRS EFL. It is for all ABE/ASE students and for ESL students at NRS Level 3 and above. The test is not for NRS reporting and does not replace locators or appraisals.

What are the best ways to improve reading skills? ›

8 Tips to Help Students Build Better Reading Skills
  1. Annotate and highlight text. ...
  2. Personalize the content. ...
  3. Practice problem solving skills. ...
  4. Incorporate more senses. ...
  5. Understand common themes. ...
  6. Set reading goals. ...
  7. Read in portions. ...
  8. Let students guide their reading.
Apr 12, 2017

What are some ways to improve reading skills? ›

How To Improve Reading Skills
  • Summarize what you read. Reading skills can be improved by summarizing what you read. ...
  • While reading, take notes. ...
  • Use key reading strategies. ...
  • The purpose should be determined. ...
  • Read the texts in advance. ...
  • Goals should be set for reading. ...
  • Every day, make time to read.
Dec 5, 2022

What is the most common reading level? ›

The average American is considered to have a readability level equivalent to a 7th/8th grader (12 to 14 years old).

What is the most basic level of reading? ›

1. Elementary Reading. The first level of reading is elementary reading, which is what we learned to do in elementary school. Most of us never get beyond this level.

What are the 6 basic reading skills? ›

Because of the importance of these components, they have become known as the 'Big Six': oral language, phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.

What level should a 7 year old read? ›

Most seven-year-old children are reading at a level in line with their grades in school. Most seven-year-old children are in first or second grade, so those in first grade should read at a first-grade level, and those in second grade should read at a second-grade level.

What reading level should a 5th grader be at? ›

On average, reading levels for a fifth-grader range between 22 to 30+ on Reading Recovery and 50 on D.R.A. levels. But that can vary from child to child. Thus, teachers should use a 1:1 approach to assess the accurate reading level.

What reading level should 3rd grade be at? ›

3rd grade reading levels typically fall between a 12 to 25 reading level. Focus on reading for fun, comprehension skills and appropriate levelled reading material. Follow their interests and start to let them recognize text difficultly. Taking ownership allows them to develop their own good reading habits.

What reading level is Junie B Jones? ›

Shop by Program:
Reading LevelInterest Level
Junie B. Jones And A Little Monkey Business Series: Junie B. Jones (Book: 2) Park, Barbara 9780679838869 Fiction PaperbackM1-3
Junie B. Jones And Her Big Fat Mouth Series: Junie B. Jones (Book: 3) Park, Barbara 9780679844075 Fiction PaperbackM1-3
18 more rows

What is 6th grade reading level? ›

6th Grade: 50-60.

What reading level is 4th grade? ›

Fourth graders typically fall between a 20 to 30 reading level depending on the leveling framework. Use different text types, allow them time to read independently. Encourage them forming opinions on what they read.

What is the first level of understanding? ›

1. Remembering. This is the most fundamental level of understanding that involves remembering basic information regarding a subject matter. This means that students will be able to define concepts, list facts, repeat key arguments, memorize details, or repeat information.

What are the 4 levels of understanding for students? ›

This model involves four stages of student understanding: Know, Use, Expand, and Surpass.

What are the 3 most important elements of comprehension? ›

Reading comprehension can be broken down into three key elements: decoding, vocabulary, and knowledge.

What are the four levels of reading comprehension with examples? ›

  • 4 Levels of Reading Comprehension. ...
  • Level 1: Right There – the answer is in front of you. ...
  • Level 2: Think and Search – the answer is in front of you, but you need. ...
  • Level 3: “The Author and You – the answer is not in front of you, use. ...
  • Level 4: “In you Head – the answer is not in the book – it is your own.

What are the 4 C's in reading? ›

The 4 Cs represent these four perspectives—connections, challenges, concepts, and changes. The paraphrasing encourages and affirms good listening and summarizing skills.

How do you determine the grade level of a reading passage? ›

The grade level is determined by plotting the average number of syllables and sentences on the Fry Readability Graph. The Fry Readability Graph has two axes: the average number of syllables (x-axis) and the average number of sentences (y-axis) per 100 words.

How do you simplify reading level? ›

Ways to Lower Reading Level: Write Clearly, Simply, and With Purpose. Write clearly and use plain language. Shorten the number of words in your sentences. Shorten the number of sentences in paragraphs and when you can, shorten the number of paragraphs.

What is the readability grading system? ›

The Flesch Reading Ease gives a text a score between 1 and 100, with 100 being the highest readability score. Scoring between 70 to 80 is equivalent to school grade level 8. This means text should be fairly easy for the average adult to read. The formula was developed in the 1940s by Rudolf Flesch.

How do you assess level of writing? ›

Student writing can be evaluated on five product factors: fluency, content, conventions, syntax, and vocabulary. Writing samples also should be assessed across a variety of purposes for writing to give a complete picture of a student's writing performance across different text structures and genres.


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