Chucking the Reading Level

I’ve often said I’m not about reading levels for kids.  I think too much stress is put on reading levels in public schools, and while I was working in the system I saw it kill any love for books some of the kids might have developed.  Reading is such a personal act, and learning it should be as organic as it can be.

IMG_20150529_093919877When the Littles were truly little, we could often be found curled up with a stack of picture books on the couch or in the floor, reading through them one at a time and exclaiming over the pictures, studying the letters, discussing the sentence structure.  But at bedtime, even when they were toddlers, I snuggled up with them and read them a chapter from a chapter book.  Harry Potter.  The Key to Rondo.  The Narnia series.  The Guardians of Ga’Hoole.  A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Why?  Because stories expand our minds, and I wanted my Littles to learn early how to let that happen without pictures.  Even I was surprised by how quietly they settled down and focused on the chapter each night, closing their eyes and letting my voice lull them.  I wasn’t at all surprised by the vocabulary they picked up, the way their imaginations swelled to include new knowledge, or their high-level ability to understand complex situations at an early age.  That’s what reading above your ‘reading level’ does for you.

When you only provide your child with age-appropriate reading you are putting him or her into a box.  My Recommended Reading list is purposely not divided up into reading levels for a number of reasons.

  • Additions to vocabulary invariably happen
  • Practice looking up words they don’t know or learning how to glean meaning from context
  • Some stories are awe-inspiring regardless of our age
  • Children are not as stupid as some grown-ups seem to think
  • Reading at different levels shows different ways to construct sentences and improve writing
  • Introduction to other cultures, time periods, places, and experiences
  • They’re books.  Everyone should enjoy them.

I am not saying you should pressure your kids to read above their level on their own–that can cause backlash in the form of creating a child who grows up to hate reading.  What I’m saying here is that you shouldn’t Discourage them from IMG_20150529_093903417reading either above or below their capabilities.  Any reading is good reading, and allowing your child flexibility in his choices will help make it a pleasurable activity.  I’m also saying that guided reading–in which you either read aloud to your kids or they read aloud to you–is more beneficial than you may imagine.  Littlest loves the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series to read on his own, but he thoroughly enjoyed reading Oliver Twist aloud with me during the school year, and still makes intelligent references to it now. With guided reading, you are there to explain the stuff that may be over their heads and to encourage them to think a little deeper about what they’re reading so next time they don’t need you so much.  It’s a win-win to allow your child to pick his own reads rather than following some list of rules some bureaucrat set out in some office in some building in some city nowhere near you, even if you just hand him a stack of different-level books and say, “Pick one.”  When you also enhance his personal reading with guided reading, his reading level grows exponentially.

It’s not a competition.  I don’t care if the Littles are reading stuff that’s ‘more advanced’ than some other mother’s kids.  You shouldn’t either.  Rather, you should care how reading opens your child’s mind, educates her without her realizing it, and helps her get a grasp on human nature and complex situations.  Don’t pressure her to read something she can’t digest just so she can keep up with the Jones kid.  Encourage her to go to the next level if she finds something interesting because it will benefit her or read the next level with her.  If you are a reader, then you know that sometimes as adults we read at different levels depending on our moods and we wouldn’t let anyone tell us we are wrong to read certain-level books.  Why would you think your child feels any differently?

In other words, let your kids read at their own pace, whether it seems advanced that week or behind.  And guide them to understanding at a level above their norm so they can comfortably grow toward an expanded literacy that will set them up for a lifetime of educational achievement.

I know there are a lot of people out there who disagree with my stand on this issue.  What about you?  How do you feel about chucking the reading level?

Love wins,



17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: 20 Fave Female Characters for People Under 20 | Lit Mama Homeschool
  2. annamarieasha
    Jun 01, 2015 @ 16:01:04

    I love this blog! I did see Public School almost kill reading for my child. There were these Accelerated Reader tests she had to take and she was limited as to what books she could borrow from the school library based on the tests. It was crazy, I hope this next year brings some love of reading to my daughter!!! I love your suggestions!



  3. Sarah
    May 31, 2015 @ 22:31:52

    I absolutely agree!! I hadn’t really thought about reading a chapter book already to my girls (ages 2 & 4), but I’m going to try! Thanks!



  4. irini112014
    May 30, 2015 @ 13:03:48

    I myself LOVE young adult books to read, I would rather read YA books than adult fiction any day. I remember that I held into that even into my late teens and early twenties, wondering when my interests should be moving on into “mature” literature. Personally, I think YA authors are allowed to explore more deeply into emotions and spirituality than adult authors because youth is a time of learning about who you are and what you believe – adults still are too – but I find adult literature sullied with, well, the games of sex, making things much more shallow than they ought to be, or something.
    Your post kind of went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting, and I think it is very interesting that you read chapter books to your kids even as toddlers. Gives me something to think about.



  5. Ashley Wornell
    May 30, 2015 @ 12:43:05

    It makes a lot of sense to me, especially when I consider two daughters of different friends. Both girls were reading before kindergarten, and they were both into chapter books by the time school started. They still loved picture books, but their skill was way beyond those. The main struggle my friends faced was finding content that their youngsters were emotionally ready for. Probably the best example was the Harry Potter series, which gets progressively darker. Both sets of parents had their girls wait a year between each of the last few books (knowing how probe to nightmares one of the girls was, this was likely a good call). Anyway, their girls read all of the suggested chapter book series. When they ran out of “age appropriate”, then they just read other books under watchful eyes (watchful for the purpose of answering questions).

    I would much rather let my kids read something they enjoy.



  6. storiesofourboys
    May 30, 2015 @ 05:46:17

    Absolutely. Amen! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


  7. Amie Elna
    May 29, 2015 @ 14:08:50

    I finished my masters in reading shortly before I began homeschooling… I too had to “chuck the reading level”! Thankfully I have a terrible memory and have since forgotten everything I learned LOL!

    Liked by 2 people


Add Your Flame to the Fire

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Number of Fires Lit

  • 2,177 hits
Backroads Market Indiana

Handpicked Artisans and Vintage Finds

Chaotic Bliss Homeschooling

where blessed meets stressed.


all the things I'd rather do

My Crafty Life as an Air Force Wife

Proverbs 12:4 A wife of noble character is her husband's crown...


Secular Science Resources for Homeschoolers


"home is where the heart is"

The Blessing of the Home is Contentment

Squarehead Teachers

Free teacher stuff to get your elementary classroom all SQUARED away!

Summer School

It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.

Meghan Tells It

Just another site

Lisa Swaboda is Atlas Educational

I'm just doing my part to uplift others through learning.

The Seeds 4 Life

Seeds of Inspiration, Wisdom, and Positivity

Exert, exhale

Please subscribe for useful updates on Homeschooling and life in general

A Literary Education

Learning along with my teenagers using good books


Wife, Mommy, Christian Step Mom's Journey.

%d bloggers like this: