Inside: Learn why your child’s interest in reading isn’t improving and how you can find his independent reading level to make books more appealing.
Your kids need to read more, right? You should be able to buy them books, send them to their room for some quiet reading time during your homeschool day, and see improvements.
You can even purchase a timer to make sure they’re reading for at least 20 minutes a day because that’s the recommended time. By the end of the school year, they’ll have read for approximately 3,600 minutes (and that’s just school days)! Makes you feel pretty good, doesn’t it?
There’s just one problem (okay, maybe a few). You discover their reading isn’t improving, they’re dreading this time each day, and they resent you for making them do it. Not quite the results you were hoping for, is it?
I wish it were as easy as handing your kids a book, and they magically go off and love it, but it’s not. In fact, it’s probably making the situation worse!
There Are Different Reading Levels
When I was in college studying to be a teacher, I learned about the different reading levels. It made perfect sense, and it’s something I’ve always tried to keep in mind while teaching in the classroom and with my own kids.
There are different stages, or reading levels, children go through when they are learning to read. It’s essential to understand each level, and it’s not just teachers that should know this.
Depending on how complex a book is, children can move back and forth between these levels, and it affects how much they enjoy reading.
If more parents understood these stages, I think there would be less frustration at home when children are reading.
The Three Reading Levels
As I explain each of the three reading levels, it will help you understand why it’s necessary to identify the proper level your child should be at when you hand him a book to read.
Once you learn these stages, it will be much easier to select appropriate and enjoyable books!
Frustration Reading Level
This first level is one you’re likely familiar with and the most obvious. It’s the frustration level!
It’s easy to spot because your child may have a meltdown or cry when reading. Just looking at the words on the page is exhausting.
He can’t pronounce or decode the majority of them, and the energy it takes to get through one page makes him feel like he’s run a marathon. Who would want to do that every day? I know I wouldn’t!
This level is miserable for your child. Decoding the words, the vocabulary used, and the concepts are too complicated. Telling him to “Keep practicing, you’ll get better!” will squash any interest in reading. And you’ll watch the lights go out in his eyes!
Parents don’t do this on purpose. They usually have good intentions. Practice makes perfect, right? Not in this case. Save the practice for another reading level.
Instructional Reading Level
Let’s move on to the instructional reading level. Your child’s able to read a little and even attempt some words on his own, but he still needs your support. What he’s reading is challenging but manageable.
This is the level where you introduce new concepts and words, and you should use it only when you’re teaching your child, not when you send him off to read by himself.
This stage is tricky because you don’t want to move too fast and frustrate him, but you also don’t want it so easy that he isn’t progressing. It’s best to gauge this by your child’s enthusiasm. Take it slow and be sure your child is ready before moving on because once you hit that frustration level, it’s hard to get that out of his memory.
Independent Reading Level
Here we are- the sweet spot! The independent reading level is where you want to land when you have your kids read on their own.
This one is easy to pinpoint as well. Why? Because it’s not torture!
The book should be relatively easy and enjoyable. He can read it independently and decode the words and comprehend the text without much effort. No stress involved!
And most importantly- he’s smiling and wanting to do it on his own.
Benefits of Knowing Your Child’s Independent Reading Level
I’m sure you can guess the obvious benefits of your child reading at the correct level.
- Temper tantrums
But what are the hidden gems they gain from it?
📚 Builds Confidence
Children feel good when they can pick up a book and read it on their own. They’re proud of themselves, and it gives them the confidence to pick up more books.
📚 Increases Motivation
Once children have some confidence, they’re motivated to keep learning so they can move on to bigger books like their siblings or parents. They’re willing to put in a little effort and push harder to learn.
📚 Creates a Lifelong Love of Books
Once you plant the seed, there’s no stopping what’s about to blossom. A lifelong love of books is a precious gift that will continue to grow.
A reader can teach himself anything, travel to places he may never visit in person, appreciate things without experiencing them firsthand, and understand concepts others might not be able to explain.
📚 Develops Language
The exposure of words will expand a child’s vocabulary, which can strengthen their spelling. It also creates the connection between written and spoken words.
📚 Makes Them Smarter
Did you know that children who read more can increase their IQ by 6 points? While that might not seem like a lot, depending on where the IQ is, it can mean a jump to the next level. If you were to test your child in school, that little boost could mean the difference between him being diagnosed with a learning disability or not.
📚 Improves Writing
When you increase your child’s vocabulary through reading, it’s going to carry over into his writing. He will have a larger base of words to pull from when he’s writing, making his writing more interesting and better at expressing his thoughts.
📚 Enhances Their Imagination
When children increase their imagination, it also introduces them to ideas, cultures, and concepts beyond their own life. It gives them a greater appreciation for others and also helps shape their thoughts and memories.
A second advantage is that it helps them become more creative. When they read about different characters, places, feelings, and situations, it exposes them to things they haven’t experienced in their own life yet. It can be inspiring and stir up an interest in a particular area that could lead to a career choice.
📚 Improves Focus and Concentration
We live in a day where attention spans are very short. Multitasking has become second nature to us, and because of that, our brains can’t focus on one thing for very long. When a child forces his mind to concentrate on reading for 20 minutes, it strengthens his attention and helps him engage for more extended periods. This will pay off in many areas of life!
📚 Helps Them Relax
Children have so much going on in their lives. There’s a lot of stress. Anxiety and depression are an enormous problem in kids.
Reading a book can help them relax and calm down. It lowers their heart rate by 68% after reading for six minutes! That’s something all kids can use. That’s why reading at bedtime is such a great activity.
📚 Develops Empathy for Others
Thinking about others can be difficult. Children tend to focus on themselves and not consider how others might feel in situations.
Reading books helps kids step into other people’s shoes and see how it feels to be on the receiving end. This builds compassion and empathy for others. That’s something we could use in our world today.
📚 Strengthens Family Bonds
When you stop what you’re doing and sit with your child while he reads, you’re making memories, spending quality time, and escaping from what’s going on around you. Your child will treasure this and be more likely to do it just to spend time with you.
📚 Portable Hobby
There aren’t many hobbies where the equipment can be thrown into a small bag or carried on your phone. But with reading, you can!
When a child loves to read, and he’s in the middle of a good book, he’ll want to take it with him and read a few pages whenever he can.
He can read while riding in the car, sitting on a porch swing, or laying on a blanket in the backyard and escape to places unknown.
As you can see, finding your child’s independent reading level can increase his chances of loving to read and reaping all the benefits listed above.
This video is a young boy talking about what the power of reading can do.
How to Identify Your Child’s Independent Reading Level
So it’s all great and dandy that you know your child should read at the independent level, but how do you find the right books?
There are a few ways to do that. You can try to guess it on your own and hope you hit the bullseye. Or you can use some assessments that will be more accurate and help you identify the correct ones.
Personally, I don’t want to play around for several weeks. Not only that, each book is different. Once you know your child’s independent reading level, you need to have a strategy to determine which books are appropriate.
Guide to Reading Levels
How do you find the right books? This’s where my How to Find Your Child’s Independent Reading Level comes into play. It takes the guesswork out of the process. You do a few simple assessments with the reading tools provided, and Voila, your child is happy again when you hand him a book!
The guide contains 5 different assessments:
✔ Lexile analyzer
✔ reading level formula
You can complete these assessments in minutes and choose the right books for your child, so he’s reading at the independent level and on his way to enjoying reading!
If your child hates to read and seems to struggle or complain when you hand him a book, perhaps it’s because it’s not on his independent reading level?
Books will be more attractive to him when he can easily read the words on the page and not strain to decode every other word. He’ll be able to get lost in the story and want to see what happens.