easy reader · leveled readers · reading · summer reading

May I have a word about publisher-created level readers?

We’re barrelling towards summer vacation, which means summer reading! I want to say something for any parent/caregiver whose child is reading leveled readers (aka easy readers). PUBLISHER READING LEVELS (e.g., Level 1, Level 2, Level 3) ARE INCONSISTENT! A book labeled a “Level 1” from one publisher can vastly differ from a “Level 1” book from another. 

Reading levels are not an exact science and can vary depending on the specific book, publisher, or reading assessment tool used. While I value publishers’ efforts in creating leveled readers, the criteria for what makes a book a level 1, 2, or 3 should be clarified. That’s not happening anytime soon.

YET, kids look at the levels. So what is an adult to do? Here are four things that have worked in our household as I’ve battled with Ari about the way he’s thought about publisher levels while attempting to select books for the past few weeks:

1) Get your child’s Guided Reading or Fountas & Pinnell Level (i.e., A-Z) from their teacher. Many leveled readers also have these levels listed on the back of the book. These are more precise.

2) Open a page and have your child read the text. If it’s too hard, look for another book. (This is similar to the “five-finger test” many kids learn in school.)

3) Find a wise person to talk to your child about reading levels and book selection. Ari could care less that I’m a certified literacy specialist. But he listened to Lynne Dorfman when we had lunch with her this past weekend. This chat with Lynne helped Ari make better book choices when he selected books at the library yesterday.

4) Enlist the help of an older sibling, cousin, or family friend who is an avid reader. Isabelle raided the boxes of leveled readers in our basement and handed Ari books she thought Ari would be interested in and could read. She also told him, “You’re not ready for Henry and Mudge YET, but you will be soon.” 

Finally, let reading levels be ONE thing that guides your child. Ari found some Paddington books with a level that’s beyond his F&P instructional reading level. However, we’ve read many Paddington picture books, so he is intensely interested in reading these leveled readers. Plus, he’s familiar with some trickier words from having us read the Paddington picture books aloud so that he can stretch himself as a reader.

reading · summer reading

A PSA (of sorts) About Summer Reading Loss

Call this a public service announcement. Call this a cautionary tale. Call it whatever you want. I’m sharing this experience with the hope that it will help someone in your life.

This morning, I sat my math-loving child down and explained to him that we needed to review his sight words, which he’s refused to do since mid-May. (I allowed this since I’m not from the you-must-read-before-Kindergarten camp.) I said, “Ari, you start Kindergarten this month! I know we read books together every day, but I need you to work with me for ten minutes per weekday on reading between now and the first day of school.” He agreed — reluctantly.

Many of you have heard of summer reading loss. It’s a real thing! It’s the reason why I used to go head-to-head with Isabelle in the summers preceding third grade when reading was challenging for her. (Nowadays, she reads for an hour a day without a fight. THANK HEAVENS for that!) Yet, it’s something I didn’t worry about for Ari since he wasn’t reading yet. That said, I was shocked when I compared the number of sight words he could read today versus the amount he was able to read in mid-May.

Am I worried? No. I know Ari will get all of those words back — and maybe more — if we work together for ten minutes/weekday between now and the first day of school. But seeing the number of words he couldn’t recognize gave me pause about the amount of time it’s been since he read decodable texts to me, did word work, and played phonemic awareness games.

Throughout most of my childhood, I put off summer reading until mid-August. (We started school after Labor Day. Talk to me in person if you want to hear me rant about this.) It wasn’t until later in life that I loved to read because it was difficult for me growing up. So, if you have or know of a child who hasn’t found books they’ve loved this summer, help them find something they want to read. Remember: graphic novels and audiobooks count as reading!

reading · summer reading

Summer Reading Festival

Richard L. Allington’s research left its mark on me when I read What Really Matters for Struggling Readers when I was in graduate school. Perhaps that’s why I’m a  hardcore about insisting Isabelle read independently and be read to (by us) every single day. Exposure to lots of words and books matters!

I drove by the Governor’s Residence on Front Street nearly two weeks ago and saw something about a Summer Reading Festival. I investigated and learned the following:

A Summer Reading Festival at the Governor’s Residence (which I’ve wanted to take a tour of since we moved here)??? Count me in! However, I knew I would have to “sell it” to Isabelle since, as you may remember from earlier posts, reading doesn’t come easily for her. She continues to love being read to, but doesn’t enjoy reading independently. I can’t blame her. I wouldn’t enjoy doing something that was extremely difficult every day either!

Thankfully, an outing — just the two of us during Ari’s naptime — that would potentially include an art project was enough to entice her to attend the Summer Reading Festival.

We arrived around 2:45 p.m., but had more than enough time to complete all of the STEM activities and complete a scavenger hunt around the Residence grounds. On our way out, the librarians tried to entice Isabelle to sign up for their summer reading program. I was convinced she’d say no even when she heard there were prizes.

“What kind of prizes?” she asked. (Thankfully, she didn’t wrinkle her nose when they said books and the possibility of being entered into a drawing for a Kindle.)

“How much does she have to read to earn a prize?” I asked. (I cringed as I asked since I don’t think kids should be reading for prizes. However, if a kid — like mine — lacks intrinsic motivation to read, then sometimes an extrinsic motivator helps.)

“Ten hours,” the librarian said.

“That’s it?!!?” I was surprised.

She nodded.

“Isabelle, remember how we set a goal to read for 1,800 hours this summer when Mrs. H. sent home the optional summer reading log in May?”

Isabelle nodded.

“Do you remember how many hours you’ve already accumulated? We tallied up your progress yesterday.”

“Ugh, I don’t remember.”

“You’ve already read about 400 minutes since we started logging in late May, which is like…” my voice trailed off. I apologized for being a literacy, not a math, person, while I converted minutes to hours. “You’ve already read more than half of what the Library is asking you to read all summer!”

Isabelle smiled.

Moments later, Isabelle signed up for the library’s summer reading program.

On our way out, we experienced the bubbles coming out of MARCO, the library’s mobile van. I think my minivan would be way more cool to drive if it had a bubble machine. 😉

Of course, the legwork for tallying the books we’ve read for the library’s summer reading program will fall to me. Thankfully, the library uses an app, Beanstalk, to help.


Here’s a peek at Beanstalk, which is quite user-friendly. Every day, when Isabelle finishes reading two just-right books, one of us reads a nonfiction book (that she chooses) to her. Here’s a look at some of the titles we’ve recently finished.

What’s really good is that when Marc asked Isabelle about her day (when they were writing in her line-a-day memory book at bedtime tonight), she told him a lot about the Summer Reading Festival. I’m thrilled that she not only said she had a good time, but decided to write about it in her memory book as well.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.