A reading level is a score assigned to a text meant to guide teachers in selecting appropriately challenging books for their students. There are different ways to determine the reading level of a text, but broadly speaking, different companies use different algorithms which take into account the average sentence length, average word length, and word difficulty level. The leveling systems most commonly used in schools are Accelerated Reader (AR), Lexile, and Guided Reading (Fountas and Pinnell). You can differentiate between these levels by how they are given: AR book levels are typically decimal (4.2) whereas Lexiles are higher whole numbers (720). Guided Reading or Fountas/Pinnell levels are given as a letter (R). In Bartholomew County, you are most likely to see teachers using AR levels.
How a reading level is assigned varies from system to system. To determine the reading level of a text, publishers often rely on a combination of factors: word difficulty (how long a word is, how many syllables, how common it is, etc), word count, and sentence complexity (length and structure) are among the most common. Two different systems may assign very different levels to the same book.
A child’s reading level is determined by assessments given in the classroom. Some of these assessments are oral assessments that measure fluency (errors per passage or words per minute) and others measure comprehension (multiple choice questions). Still others measure vocabulary with fill-in-the-blank type questions. Although there are many differing ways to find reading level, most of these do not capture the full range of skills, motivation, and background knowledge needed for a child to read independently; thus, a given reading level rarely provides a full picture of reading ability.
Yes! A reading level is only a guide to help children know that they may be successful at reading the words in the book. If a student is interested in a book that is below their reading level, they’ll read it easily and quickly, and if it is higher than their reading level this just means that they may need more help from a parent or a dictionary.