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One of the most frustrating situations I have as an early childhood educator is the misconception of “leveled” readers. Time and time again parents will tell me they’ve checked out these readers from the library or purchased readers that are “leveled” for their child, only to become frustrated when their child has difficulty reading the books! These are the points I try to instill in my parents when it comes to their young elementary student who is an emerging reader:

Work with the phonics, not against it.
Phonetics is a great method of teaching decoding and spelling rules. My classroom is phonetic-based as far as teaching spelling and reading. Parents need to be kept in the loop though. If I’m covering a phonetic rule in the classroom, my parents need to know what that rule is so they can help their child at home. I send home a list of rules that we cover so parents understand what the child is being taught. A decodable text is very important to young readers.

Sight words-exposure, exposure, exposure!
I use the Dolch lists in my class. We cover all five lists by the second grade. Again, parents need to be aware of what words are being covered. Sight word exposure is a very important technique for young students. If parents have no idea what is being covered in class then the parents can’t help the student at home and since many of these words are decodable, the more exposure, the better.

Independent reading level versus instructional reading level?
When I assess my students, I will report both of these levels to the parent and will explain what each level means. Usually, instructional levels are three to five months ahead of independent levels. I want my youngsters reading aloud ALL THE TIME. If young readers are left to read silently no one knows if they are really reading, pronouncing words correctly, reading the text with the proper prosody or even comprehending what they are reading. Reading levels can be found in the backs of most books. There are several different assessments that can be used in getting accurate levels, including DIBELS, ERDA, ITBS, STARR, WRAT, RTI- the list goes on and on. Be aware of what your district or school uses, then educate yourself on the other assessments that are available to use informally.

Those leveled books, aren’t such.
Young readers need confidence to read. In order to build that confidence they need to feel successful. If the child is just beginning to decode words and is given a ‘level one’ book that has eighteen to twenty pages of text, that child will get frustrated very easily, will not want to read and will lose confidence in his or her reading ability. Reading endurance must be built, not jumped into. Most of the leveled readers you get at the library or bookstore are not suitable for young readers either in decoding or endurance. Many curriculum publishers have great resources for phonetic readers. Saxon and Open Court are just a couple of good ones.

Lexile, Pinnell, Fountas, AR-!
So many different words that come down to one thing- choosing the best level of reading material for kids! Most of us can decipher what these mean in our sleep, but most parents haven’t a clue about them. Be sure to decode those intimidating numbers for your parents. Really explain what texts they should be looking for when they go to the library or purchase books. Not all books will give each reading level on the back cover. It is our job to show our parents what type of book is appropriate for their young reader.

What have you found to be successful for young readers?

Paula has a Masters degree in education with an emphasis on child development and child behavior....

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