Do Reading Levels Matter? Yes — But Passion Comes First

Written by Gabrielle Murray

Parents can often feel adrift in a sea of information when looking for the best books for their child. Understanding leveled reading is a helpful piece of the puzzle when seeking to balance ease and challenge, but it rarely gives the full picture.

Passion is the best motivation for a budding reader.

Sure, you can read the dictionary cover-to-cover — but do you want to? There’s a reason it’s easier to make it through 300 pages of the latest bestseller than a 50 page technical manual.

All of us are most engaged when reading something we’ve chosen, regardless of the results of a reading assessment. Not only are engaged children reading more fluently, they retain more information and remember it longer. Reading slightly above assessed reading level is a great opportunity for children to stretch themselves cognitively and learn new vocabulary, especially if it’s a topic they’re interested in or knowledgeable about.

You may be tempted to discourage a child from reading a book below their assessed level, but consider this: How many of us constantly challenge ourselves with the books we read, never picking up a pulpy paperback, an old favorite, or something someone dubbed a “beach read”? If you want to raise lifelong reader, now is the time to solidify the association of books with pleasure. Reading should be joyful, engaging, and stress-free.

Reading level assessments don’t take into consideration the importance of subject matter.

Most reading level evaluations begin with a child reading a benchmark text along with a teacher to assess fluency, then answering several questions to assess comprehension.

One notable risk? Benchmark texts and early readers are often repetitive or dull, affecting a child’s engagement with the material. This can lead to the child being marked lower than their abilities on a more engaging text, and set them up for a stream of books that aren’t challenging or interesting enough to hold their attention, possibly leading to a decline in interest in reading altogether.

The trouble with tests? They’re inconsistent.

In most methods of reading assessment, books and readers are given a level on a graded spectrum. Their approaches are similar, but the differences are enough to create notably divergent results. This leads to the likelihood that a child taking multiple assessments will see a new result each time.

The same can happen when assessing a book, leading to confusion if the new novel in the library is rated appropriate for a prospective reader on one scale, too high by several points on another. While this may not matter at home, some schools set an expectation that students can only check out books that are at or near their assessed level. The results can be more than a little disappointing.

Joining a book club helps you find the best books, stress-free.

Parents looking for the best books for their children can often feel adrift in a sea of information. Literati, a book club for children birth to age nine, is like your whip-smart, bookish aunt whose recommendations are always on point. Reading shouldn’t feel like homework, and Literati was created with the intention of helping kids thrive by following their passion, regardless of their “reading level.”

Literati handpicks books on a monthly theme for four age-based clubs. It keeps the choice in their members’s hands with their try-before-you-buy model, so you’re never stuck with a book that doesn’t make your child’s heart sing. After a week to read and explore five books each month, parent and child keep only the books they love and send the rest back.

When kids are in charge of their reading, passion and motivation pave the way to a lifelong love of literature.

Try Literati today and get your first month of membership for free with offer code PASSIONFIRST1.

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