Don’t get me wrong! Leveled reading is a wonderful tool that has come into existence. For years, many kids have struggled to learn how to read just because educators did not know where a child was coming from in regards to phonetic and text awareness.
Each child is so different in comprehension levels of phonics, text, and understanding of the story. When Fountas and Pinnell and Lexile came into existence, as a way to gauge a child’s reading level, it created a standard and a way to approach how to teach reading to struggling, normative, or gifted children.
As an Elementary Teacher, I have thrived off these systems to help children learn and grow in their reading. It provides kids with a cushion to read something that is accessible to them, while at the same time challenging them to read something a bit harder. Classroom libraries and school libraries level their books according to the particular system that the school uses. Even here at the Glen Ellyn Public Library, we have a whole section dedicated to Easy/Early Readers, where all the books are leveled and correlate to the common leveling systems used by schools! (See our leveling chart above.)
So what’s so dangerous about leveled reading? Something I like to call Level Lock. It’s just as it sounds. It’s where an educator, librarian, parent, or guardian prevents a child from choosing books outside of their reading level, whether it is below it or above it. This occurs in the classroom with right reason though. Teachers use leveled material to design proper lessons and curricula to help children’s literacy grow, but outside the classroom, level lock becomes an issue.
Time and time again, I have had parents and guardians come into the Library asking for only leveled material for their children — essentially level locking them. I’m not saying to never check out properly leveled reading material for your children. I am saying, don’t restrict your child to reading only leveled material.
There are so many benefits for kids who not only attempt to read way above their level, but who also re-read some of their favorite easy reads. Kids should be allowed to read above their reading level. Yes, they might not understand everything they read, but even looking at any pictures or figures that are there, attempting to read new and complicated words helps build literacy! It also opens them up to something teachers call “prior knowledge.” Any little bit of information, no matter how small, helps teachers teach new complex concepts by using and building upon those small bits of knowledge that a child has.
Regardless of the benefits, be wary of explicit content. When it comes to potential inappropriate and overly mature material, it is definitely okay to prevent your child from reading those specific titles.
Many also don’t like it when their children read super easy books. This is understandable if the child is only reading super easy books. However, it’s okay for a child to go back to a favorite or pick out an easier read because it actually solidifies the literary concepts they already have. They get to practice what they already know, and practicing helps build stronger literacy. It can also boost their confidence in reading, because it’s something that they don’t struggle with and can read through it fluently. Reading something easier also gives them a mental break. Reading too much at their level or above can wear them out. The brain is like a muscle after all. Giving them a “rest” is a great way to develop lifelong readers.
Just remember, don’t lock your child at their reading level. Let them explore and vary the text that they read. Doing so helps grow strong readers for the future. Don’t believe me? Check out these links below to find out more: