How to Choose Just-Right Books Based on Your Child's Reading Level

Use these tips to find the perfect fit for your child’s needs.

Sep 08, 2022



How to Choose Just-Right Books Based on Your Child's Reading Level

Sep 08, 2022

Finding the right book match for your child’s reading needs and levels doesn’t have to be a difficult process. When working with your child and your child’s teacher on their reading, it’s important to remember that learning to read is a process that’s different for every child. 

“Be sure to reach out to the school and your child’s teacher to understand your child’s areas for growth as a reader,” says Karen Burke, senior vice president of data analysis and academic planning at Scholastic. “Some signs that your child might be struggling with reading are avoidance, slow labored oral reading, or selecting books quite a bit below the grade level and perhaps still struggling. The child shows difficulty in decoding words.”

Children can fall behind in reading levels because they haven’t yet found books that spark their interests, which can lead to frustration and the urge to give up on reading altogether. Sometimes, the underlying cause of reading struggles is dyslexia. Screening for dyslexia requires a trained expert and the best way to get help and guidance is by connecting with your child's school district for support. 

Here are a four things to remember when choosing books at the appropriate levels for your child. 

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1. Connect With Your Child’s Teacher

First and foremost, understanding where your child is in the process of learning how to read will help you gauge what books to begin exploring with them. Speak with their teachers as they grow and ask for the best ways to support your child at home. Some questions to consider when speaking with your child’s teacher are: 

  • What genres should my child try?
  • What types of books (chapter, graphic novels, or picture books) are best for where they are currently?
  • What other methods can we incorporate into our reading routine to better support them?

Repetition and regular reading is imperative to fostering a love of reading. “Voluminous reading is key to helping a child acquire both vocabulary and knowledge,” says Burke. “Oral language and conversations that are rich in ideas and concepts are key to building background knowledge and building confidence.”

2. Understand Reading Levels

Next, you’ll want to gain a better understanding of what exactly reading levels are, not to mention how to determine reading level.

Reading level systems use a wide variety of assessments to determine how well your child reads — and then match their level with the appropriate books (which are categorized by level of difficulty).

Guided reading levels are used primarily by teachers in schools to help match your child with the right books. Talk to your child's teacher about reading levels and look for corresponding books once they’ve been tested for their level. Reading levels are often helpfully provided on the reading jacket of a book to make choosing a lot easier. In The Scholastic Store, a book's reading level can also be found in each book's “Product Details” for convenience. 

There are a variety of factors that determine how a book is leveled. Adria Klein, PhD, co-creator of the Scholastic Edge reading program and professor emerita of reading education at California State University San Bernardino, has identified the top focal points for how reading levels are chosen for books throughout her teaching career:

  • Text structure
  • Content and theme
  • Complex sentences
  • Vocabulary words and phrases
  • Illustrations

These factors all come together when a book is being leveled, and can make a huge difference in how your child reads, understands, and retains the information within. 

3. Follow Their Interests

Sometimes, kids avoid books not because they're the wrong level — but because they simply aren't interested in the topic. In fact, 42 percent of kids have trouble finding books they like, according to the Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report. If you've found a book you believe is at your child's reading level but they're not picking it up, looking for what sparks the most joy for your child is essential to finding the right book match for them.

“Have children pick books that interest them,” says Burke. “Have them read various books with the same theme or topic. Reading every day is critical to improving skills.”

For instance, a series like Who Would Win? or I Survived are perfect for children who are fascinated by real-world events or STEM topics. Meanwhile, titles in the Owl Diaries series are great for kids who love animal stories and Animorphs will delight science fiction fans.  

Try exploring different genres — whether fiction, nonfiction, or anything in between — and see which ones keep your child coming back for more. 

4. Explore All Kinds of Books

Having a full range of diverse books is very important and helpful in your child’s reading development. Beginning with picture books at an early age develops reading comprehension by allowing children to make connections between the visuals and the text. 

Graphic novels like those in the Dog Man, The Baby-Sitters Club, and Wings of Fire series can be a great next step when readers are graduating from picture books to chapter books, but offer many advantages to readers of all levels. Some parents assume that graphic novels are “easy” books, but they can actually introduce your child to more complex vocabulary and ideas, fostering further reading comprehension while introducing children to a range of literary devices. 

And, when your child is ready, chapter books will introduce them to broader character development and long-form stories. Finding the right series will further develop their love of reading

Shop popular books across reading levels below! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store.

For more tips on finding books at the right level for your child, visit our guide on reading levels for kids.

Book Selection Tips
Age 7
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Reading Comprehension
Leveled Reading