A Parent's Guide to Guided Reading

Know the specifics of guided reading to lead your child to the best books for their development.
By Mary Doman
Nov 06, 2012



A Parent's Guide to Guided Reading

Nov 06, 2012

Guided reading: Helping your child learn how to read is not easy. It becomes even more challenging since schools often use leveling systems unfamiliar to most parents. One of the most popular leveling systems in use today is Guided Reading Levels (GRL). This system was developed by two renowned teaching specialists, Gay Su Pinnell and Irene C. Fountas, in the late 1990s and has been found in classrooms around the world ever since as guided reading. Guided reading is also referred to as Fountas and Pinnell Levels after its founders.    

  • Guided Reading: How Does Guided Reading Work?

    Guided reading is used in the classroom in small-group instruction and for independent reading. When your child enters a new grade he or she is assessed and assigned a guided reading level based on word-knowledge, comprehension, and fluency. The levels range alphabetically from A to Z, with level A representing the lowest level and level Z the highest. This allows the teacher to work closely with each student to help them become better readers by introducing them to increasingly challenging books while meeting the varying instructional needs of each child in the room through guided reading.

    Books are assigned guided reading levels based on several general expectations and capabilities of a reader. As the levels progress, the books become more difficult. Each level is based upon the increasing complexity of ten benchmark common book characteristics that readers encounter at all stages of the reading process from when your child picks up his or her first book through the time when he or she becomes a fluent reader. These guided reading categories are: 

    • Genre: The type of the book 
    • Text Structure: How the book is organized and presented
    • Content: The subject matter of a book 
    •  Themes and Ideas: The big ideas that are communicated by the author 
    •  Language and Literary Features: The types of writing techniques employed by the writer
    • Sentence Complexity: How challenging the syntax is of each sentence
    • Vocabulary: The frequency of new words introduced in the book
    • Words: The ease at which the words in the book can be figured out or decoded by a reader
    • Illustrations: The correlation and consistency of images and pictures in the books to the words printed on the page
    • Book and Print Features: The physical aspects of the printed word on the page.
  • How Can I Find Books at My Child’s Guided Reading Level?

    Since teachers clearly label the front of every book with its alphabetic level, it is easy for a child to go to a bookshelf in school and grab a book on his or her appropriate guided reading level. There are many characteristics and benchmarks used to calculate what level a book is on and should only be leveled by trained levelers. The Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Books website has a database of thousands of popular books teachers and parents can easily search by guided reading level, genre, theme, age, interest level, or series. You can label the books in your child’s book collection so that he or she can easily spot the books on their guided reading level to practice reading at home. 

Use the chart below to compare leveled reading systems:

Reading Comprehension
Book Selection Tips
Age 5
Age 7
Age 6
Reading Comprehension
Guided Reading