Understanding Your Child’s Reading Level

Posted on January 5, 2021

by Megan Roseberry

Most of our local school systems follow some form of reading program. The school system might follow an Accelerated Reader, Lexile, Guided Reading, or other leveling system. These reading programs often assign children a “reading level” based on tests that are administered at the beginning of each school year. You might hear your child say that he or she is reading at a ‘Level C’ or between a 1.3 and a 1.4. This can be very confusing to some. Is your child reading at, above, or below grade level? What if you switch schools and your child is in a classroom that utilizes a different reading program? How can you make sense of these numbers and letters and what do they mean for your child? 


The first thing to understand is that reading levels start at the beginning of the alphabet and number chart and increase in amount as your child masters various reading skills. Therefore, if your child is at a ‘Level A’ in Guided Reading or a Lexile Level of BR-70 (‘BR’ stands for Beginning Reader), your child is generally reading at a beginning kindergarten level. The letters and numbers usually increase as your child progresses through school. Guided reading levels frequently stop at ‘Level Z’ which, depending on your school system, is appropriate for students in grades 7 and 8. In terms of Lexile, these numbers can go all the way into the thousands and can label a student’s reading level through high school. Therefore, if a child is reading at a 1200 level, they are likely in 11th grade. Accelerated reading levels throw in decimals as an added indicator of reading level. However, the numbers for Accelerated reading levels generally correlate with the grade your child is in as well as how far they are in the school year. For example, if your child is at a 1.5 reading level in Accelerated Reader, they are reading at what experts determine most children are reading at half-way through their first grade year. Many websites provide charts that visually depict how reading level designations are distributed among grade levels. Some examples of these charts include this one from the Chesire Library and this one from the Gaston School District in North Carolina.


It is important to note that one size doesn’t fit all for reading levels. It is completely possible for your child to be reading at a first grade level in kindergarten. On the other hand, a child can be reading at a third grade level while in fourth grade. Much of their reading growth depends on their early exposure to books. The more children are given high-quality reading experiences at a young age, the more likely they are to be successful readers in school. 


Reading together with your child is a fantastic way to share books and help them develop their reading skills. Ask your child questions throughout the book. What is happening in the pictures? What do you think might happen next? Give your child opportunities to interact with the book and the content. Make reading a fun and enjoyable experience. Get children excited for reading time. Carve out a special time for reading during your day. Read with a silly voice or use puppets to tell a story. Engage your child with what is happening on the page. Show them how to properly hold a book and turn the pages. Reading opens a fantastic world for everyone and children should be encouraged to explore this world!


Your local library is a great place to help your child read books at his or her level. At the La Porte County Public Library, our computer system is set up to search for books in our collection that match a particular reading level. A staff member will be happy to show you how to search for books by reading level. Many of our books also have reading levels for the Accelerated Reader program noted in the cover of the book. 


A final word of advice, do not limit your child to reading books that are only on their reading level. If a child shows interest in a book that might be considered at a “lower” reading level, it is absolutely appropriate for them to read it. Reading books at a lower level can help your child build confidence in their reading skills. Confidence goes a long way with young readers! Also, if your child selects a book that might be considered above their reading level, this is a great opportunity for adults to read together with their children! Sharing the read-aloud experience provides great memories and strengthens the bond between parents and caregivers and their children. 


Megan Roseberry

Megan Roseberry

Megan, Community Engagement Librarian, Unicorn Fanatic, The Most Sparkly Librarian – any of these titles will do. When not bringing the Van Halen to early literacy classes or spreading the joy of reading to youngsters throughout the community, one can find her enjoying copious amounts of carbohydrates, binge-watching random television shows and movies, pretending to be a professional photographer, dancing around and singing when no one is watching (okay, maybe when people are watching, too), and thoroughly enjoying life with a never-ending smile!
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