In the States, for the most part, we use an alphabetical reading levels system.
The basic expectation is that (by grade) kids should be reading from the following levels:
Kindergarten: PC, RB, A, B, C, D
Grade 1: D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K
Grade 2: J, K, L, M, N
Grade 3: M, N, O, P, Q
Grade 4: P, Q, R, S, T
Grade 5: S, T, U
As you can see, there’s some overlap, accommodating the kids at the higher and lower ends of the reading spectrum. This spectrum is compatible with Common Core Standards. There are three things that play into getting a reading level assessment (three sides to the triangle). Qualitative, Quantitative, Reader & Task.
I agree with this measurement system, and I’m glad its in place because it makes it easier to look for books that fall within my child’s range.
Here’s the kicker, though. Its intimidating as hell when your child has a reading level much higher than what is expected for her grade. In our case, with Miss L, at 6 years old, in first grade, she should be reading at a max of Level K. (Click here for a Goodreads list of level K books.)
Examples of Level K books:
Miss L, though, bookworm that she is, reads at level O. (Click here for a Goodreads list of level O books.)
Examples of Level O Books
Is it intimidating that she’s able to read at this level? No, of course not. I love it. She adores Judy Moody books! What’s intimidating is the level of analyzing she’s supposed to be doing at level O.
Here is one entry from each section of the Guided Reading Goal Questions I linked you to earlier in the text.
Thinking within the Text
- Summarizing: Summarize ideas and facts from a text and tell how they are related
Thinking beyond the Text
- Predicting: After reading the text, predict what might happen next. What clues from the book or personal experience helped you with this prediction?
- Making Connections: What connection can you make (personal, text, world)? Explain how they are connected.
- Synthesizing: After reading, has the new information changed your thinking about the topic?
- Inferring: Look at the dialogue in the text. What does the dialogue tell you about how the characters are thinking or feeling?
Thinking about the text
- Analyzing: What did the author do to make the characters or situation interesting?
- Critiquing: What is the most important part of the story? Why?
She’s six. 6. S-I-X. Am I really supposed to ask my six year old to analyze what she’s reading on this level when other 6 year olds are being asked “What was the problem in this story?” (Level K question.)
Okay, so this is going to sound weird, but if Miss L was across-the-board intelligent, I wouldn’t have nearly as much of a problem with this. I’d label her as advanced, and just expect more from her. But she’s not.
Miss L is, in all other aspects of schooling, average. I don’t have a problem with that. Average is fine. I expected, because of her health problems, that she would have learning disabilities. So, to have a kid that’s perfectly middle of the road? I’m fine with that! So, anyways, what do I do about this one area Miss L excels in? I love the fact that she’s a bookworm, I’m proud of the fact that her reading level is advanced, but…
Do I want to push this? Is it realistic to ask a six year old only gifted in one area to push her critical thinking skills this hard? Could this make reading less fun for her? As I was in the middle of writing this, I was also on messaging in Facebook with a teacher friend who I was expressing my concerns with. She stated her dismay at how hard we were pushing kids to think critically nowadays, and agreed that pushing it too hard could make reading less fun for her.
She’s at a pretty important juncture in life where we can cement her love of reading, or drive her away from it. Even if her comprehension isn’t that great, I’m not going to stress her out trying to get her to answer some of the difficult questions. I’d prefer to just make sure she loves reading. We can develop critical thinking skills later. Let her learn that books = imagination adventures!
I think, and I’m definitely going to consider this some more, but I think that just because we can ask a lot of a child because the capability is in them, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should .
Ultimately, reading and learning needs to be fun for Miss L. Not just because learning should be fun for kids in general, but realistically speaking… her chances of surviving to even high school are slim. I’d rather her enjoy her time. If that means her grades aren’t as good as they could be… who cares?
So my compromise will be lowering the level of the books I read with her (we read middle grade a lot of the time), and I will ask some of the simpler questions from the Guided Reading Level Questionnaire. But I will not push it. I will not stress her out.
Her smiles will matter more to me than her report cards ever will.
I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts! Feel free to chime in!