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How Leveled Books Can Encourage a Love of Reading

Geoff Nixon

By Geoff Nixon

Avoid Unnecessary Reading Frustration

The holy grail of reading for K-12 children is reading practice.  The only way to read at a high school level, i.e., with the ability to comprehend and think critically about complex material, is to read, and read, and read.

As with most complicated skills, the hardest part of reading is getting started.  The critical early reading skill is fluency — not so much mastering reading at speed, but mastering reading with automaticity.  If reading is effortless, your child will read.

We of course recommend that you seek help for children with dyslexia, or for children who are unusually reluctant readers. In either case, these children could have an underlying problem that can be addressed with a program like our software, Fast ForWord.  This is only part of the role parents need to play, however. Whether a child does our program or not, parents have a huge role to play in building and maintaining reading momentum at home.

Choose Books For Your Child, Patiently

One huge mistake parents of reluctant readers make is impatience.  They either push their children to read books that are too hard for them, and therefore difficult to read effortlessly, just because it is what their child’s peers are reading.

Or, they allow their children to choose their own books, where the choices are either too easy, lacking real value in terms of reading practice and vocabulary expansion, or they are too hard and end up not being read, or — just as bad — read with very little comprehension.

How Leveled Books Work

We recommend that parents of struggling readers or children with dyslexia be proactive in managing what books their children are reading. In particular, there is a scientific reading zone for each reading age, a 1-2 grade band around a child’s reading level that is considered most valuable for reading practice. This zone is called the Zone of Proximal Development.

Over the past few years, as this idea of a reading zone has gathered momentum, a new resource has been made available for parents called leveled books.  These are specially edited books that fit exactly in a child’s reading zone, as opposed to regular books where the reader’s reading skill is only one factor in developing the content.

The reason these books are worth looking at, especially if your child is reluctant, is that you can be assured that your child will not come across soul-destroying unfamiliar words that cannot either be read or understood.  It helps ensure a satisfying reading experience that will build confidence, and should lead to more willingness to read the next time.  And as we noted earlier, this is the key to eventual reading success.

While leveled books are mainly found in classrooms, here are some resources for parents at home:

Leveled Reader website

Benchmark Education Books (note, while this is mainly for schools, you can buy single set copies of most selections)

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