For new readers, it is important to match text with the reader’s ability level, which helps guard against young readers becoming overwhelmed by the text. A tried and true method for evaluating whether a book is at an appropriate level for your reader is the Five Finger Method. Open the book you are evaluating to any page and hold up five fingers. Have the student begin to read. Each time that they encounter a work that they either cannot sound out or do not understand, lower one finger. If all five fingers are down before the student finishes the page, the text is too difficult. Students are challenged by a two or three finger text, but can be frustrated and lose valuable reading practice while wrestling with a book that is far above their reading level.
A reading level is sometimes shown on the back of children’s books. However, this can still be confusing as there are several different systems used to level books. We have created an estimated reading level conversion chart using some of the most common scales, in the hopes of assisting you in choosing great reading materials for your child.
There are many sites that provide reading lists, but Accelerated Reader offers an extensive leveled book list. It is an easy way to find titles that are just right. It is also a great way to move up incrementally as your reader improves.
Scholastic Book Wizard is also a great resource. By entering a title, you can determine the reading level of a book.
Children do need access to complex stories and vocabulary, but they can gain that learning by hearing stories read aloud to them. This also provides a great opportunity for you to model good oral reading skills.