As all teachers know,
not all children in the same grade read on the same level or
even read at their own grade level. So why make all
children read the same book?
Studies show that the
best way to teach kids to read is to pair them up with books
that are at their instructional or independent reading level. Students can
build their fluency and comprehension skills when they read
books that are on their target level, allowing them to
concentrate on comprehension instead of struggling in decoding
unknown words. Richard Allington states in his book
What Really Matters for Struggling Readers (2001) that
struggling readers are probably reading books that are above
their reading level and should be provided with appropriately
Think about this - how fluently would you be able to read a
crocheting instructions? How much would you comprehend
of a mechanical engineering book? How many times have
you read academic books that left you baffled? How
frustrated would you feel if you were given a test on a book
you couldn't read or understand?
Leveled books allow students to read and
comprehend various types of texts, exposing them to
information and vocabulary they can understand, allowing
students to gain background knowledge that will help them move
onto higher level texts. It also promotes success in all
students, particularly those on the lower spectrum.
To learn how to
find students' reading levels (independent, instructional,
and frustional), go to the Running Records
There are various
leveling systems, among them DRA, Reading Recovery,
Accelerated Reading, Rigby, and Fountas and Pinnell Guided
I used the Fountas and Pinnell system
(GRL) when I leveled my classroom library. The majority
of teachers use the Fountas and Pinnell system, which uses the
alphabet as their code.
Some schools use leveled systems from
programs such as Accelerated Reading.
If your school does not have a
required leveling system, then I suggest using Fountas and
Rigby provides a
comparison chart for various leveling systems - our
teachers have used this when we received leveled books from
other companies and needed to find their Fountas/Pinnell
Reading A-Z also has a
correlation chart for various systems.
Once you have decided
which leveling system you want to use, you can begin leveling
your classroom library.
Many will ask - do I level my
entire library? My answer is - that depends on you.
There are teachers that level their entire library whereas
others just do 1/3 (which is recommended in most books).
I originally leveled about 1/3 of my
library but now I would do my entire classroom library.
1/3 of the books would be placed in leveled book bins whereas
the rest would remain in the regular classroom library bins.
The first step is to review your books
and find their GRL levels using the following resources:
Depending you on the grade you teach, you
can decide what guided reading levels will be available to
students. When I was a second grade teacher, I had levels A -
O (Grades K -4) available since my students' reading levels
were all over the place.
Therefore, I created bins for Levels A
- O (about 15 baskets). Many recommend that you try to
come up with a labeling system that is ambiguous but sometimes
it just easier to label the books with the letters of the
Since I wanted a simple labeling
system but wanted to avoid students' awareness of its
implications, I decided to use animals.
Here is what I came up
I created book label bins with the
name of each level and a picture of the animal. I also
created smaller labels that were attached to the back cover of
Beth Newingham's System. Scroll to the middle to see how
she levels her books. I like her system immensely but would
use it with older students.
Other leveling ideas:
Once your leveled library is organized,
you need to teach your students how to use the new system.
My students were allowed to choose 3-5
books every day or two that would be read during their
independent reading time or any other free time Most of
their choices were books on their level and the rest were
books on their interests.
In the beginning of the school year,
some of my mini-lessons included:
- choosing "just right" books
- choosing and reading leveled books
- procedures for library organization
of Leveled Libraries:
Leveled texts are used for two activities:
- Independent Reading
- Guided Reading
This page explains how to level your
classroom library so that students have access to leveled
titles for independent reading.
For guided reading, teachers should
have various leveled texts with multiple copies (5-6 copies).
Many schools have a resource room with copies of leveled
texts. Other schools have ordered guided leveled readers
for each classroom. Our district currently uses
Scholastic Guided Readers, as well as other smaller programs.
Before we received these readers, I
had to create my own sets of guided leveled readers to use in
guided reading. Here are tips to help you create your
own if you do not have massive funds to purchase commercial
Reading A-Z.com - You
can print various leveled readers and make copies. There
is a fee but in my opinion it is worth it. For free
samples, go to
2. Scholastic Book Club
- Scholastic will have specials on multiple copies of books.
I used my points to purchase these sets to add to my guided
- Free leveled books for young readers.
Ebay - I was able to find
many great deals on multiple copies of books sold by teachers
who were retiring or who had overstock of books. Many of
these came from Accelerated Reading or Reading Recovery