Between Picture Books and Middle Grade Novels: Early Readers and Leveled Books

Last week, I began a blog series about Early Readers and Early Chapter Books. Much of my reflection on early readers and early chapter books come from working with young children in kindergarten to second grade and the teachers that teach them on a daily basis. In an effort to better support teachers in the instruction of reading and create children who love to read, I want to assist teachers to feel more confident in selecting the right book for a student without feeling the need to mark every book with a number or letter. 

What do the following books have in common? 

According to Scholastic's Book Wizard App, each of the above books fall within the Guided Reading Text Levels of K to M. I was a bit surprised by this. I was especially surprised that Shannon Hale's The Princess in Black and Erin Soderberg's Puppy Pirates both were considered guided reading levels M. Aside from very different topic/interest levels, the format of these books are very different making them a better match for very different readers at different levels. If I hadn't read each of these books and just marked them with a letter based on an app, I might face some challenges when selecting books for students. 

Now what do these books not have in common?

Both are Level 1 Early Readers published by the same publisher. However, the TRUCKS book clocks in at a Guided Reading Level J and CATERPILLAR TO BUTTERFLY is a Guided Reading Level R. Again, they may be marked the same level by the publisher but they are really different books for different kinds of readers.

Now let me state a few disclaimers. First, all of the books listed above are good books and I have no issues with any of them. Second, I have selected to use Fountas & Pinnell Text Levels since I am familiar with and have administered the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System.  Next, I have chosen to use the Scholastic Book Wizard to check on the guided reading level of books listed in this post since this is an app that is frequently used by teachers. Finally, I am not addressing Accelerated Reading Levels or Lexile Levels (that is for another day, another post). 

What implications does this have on matching children with books and the desire to level a classroom library? The best thing I can say is proceed with caution when looking at levels provided by a publisher or an app.  Understanding how text size, number of pages, type of illustrations, format, vocabulary, and topic determines what child to match with what book is a better place to start. 

Stop by next week as we dive in and explore more about the characteristics of readers and books at various levels.