Leveled Reading Scales Explained

Reading is arguably the most essential skill a student will learn in their education career, but how do you gauge a student’s performance, level, and improvement with respect to other students?

Leveled Reading scales are numbered or lettered reading systems, which inform teachers or parents of the student’s reading performance. Some books are labeled on or inside their covers according to various scales while some are not. Scholastic’s Book Wizard is a wonderful search tool teachers and parents can use to look up a book and learn it’s place on various scales. Alternatively, you can browse books by levels according to various scales. The Book Wizard is available online and you can also download an app to your smartphone.

Scholastic Book Wizard, to match students with books of their reading level

Using these systems makes finding books and material appropriate for the student easier. Why is this important?

The significance of leveled reading systems

Regardless of which system one might be familiar with, making sure your student has reading material appropriate to their level is critical to the health of their reading learning curve. Students may feel discouraged, frustrated, or disheartened if they encounter material which is too advanced for them. In some cases, a student may push themselves harder to overcome the difficulty, but in worse cases, he or she may lose interest entirely. Additionally, introducing reading levels to students directly might only distract them.

On the other hand, if the material is too easy or simple, the student might not find as much improvement. Even worse, he or she might get the wrong idea and think their parents or teachers have low expectations of their performance.

Thus, the significance of leveled reading systems is that they help to match a student with material which best fits his or her ability. In this way, their reading experience is optimized.

The competitive nature of student reading

I’d like to preface here with this: comparing your child or student to others should only be done sparingly. Many children are naturally competitive and learn early on they have to be the best. That said, few things have a more negative impact on a student’s self-esteem than informing them of their lesser performance in anything compared to other – or worse, most of – students of the same grade as them.

When I teach reading, I avoid exposing the student to reading levels at all. Instead, it is information I keep between the teachers, parents, and myself. In this way, I avoid the negative implications, and I find, it helps the student focus less on performance and more on enjoying and absorbing the material. When I can, I explain leveled reading scales to parents who don’t already know, so they can make informed decisions when looking for reading material for their children.

Without further ado, let’s get through the confusion together. Whether you are familiar with a few of these scales or not at this point, here are the ones you are likely to encounter and use.

Grade Level Equivalent

Probably the most straightforward of systems, the Grade Level Equivalent scale simply indicates readability of a text by grade level. This system reflects the grade level at which a student could read the book or material independently. Not only does it indicate the grade year, but using a decimal scale from .1 to .9, this scale also informs the level within the year that a student might find the material appropriate. For instance, a student who is in the middle of second grade and reading “on-grade” would be well-matched with a Reading Level of 2.5.

The Black Widow Spider Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner has a GLE of 3.1, meaning that an on-grade reader starting 3rd grade would be well-matched with a book like this.

This system is straightforward, though not as informative, and thus, is slowly falling to the wayside for some schools. Even among students of the same grade level, there are so many variables which make it difficult to categorize books for all students in a specific grade level.

Guided Reading Level

The Guided Reading Level system gives a more precise reading level for books. It was developed by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Fountas and Pinnell state, “In guided reading, you meet students where they are and lead them forward with intention and precision.” In guided reading, students of a similar point in reading development are put into small groups. The teacher guides a discussion of the text meaning and makes teaching points based on observation. To learn more, see Fountas and Pinnell’s page.

A correlation chart including commonly used leveled reading scales

The Guided Reading Level is a detailed, alphabetic system and has several levels within each grade level. A GRL to Grade Level correlation can be found above. A 1st grade student might be matched to any books leveled C through I, depending on readiness and comprehension. By the time a student reaches 2nd grade, they should be comfortable in a J or above guided reading session.

Each book is carefully evaluated prior to being leveled, and teacher input is considered in the process. The F&P Leveled Books website includes a database of thousands of leveled books and various other resources, and subscription is only $25 per year, or two dollars per month.

Keep one thing in mind. A student may find it challenging to read a book of his or her Guided Reading Level independently. So, the best way to use this scale is to sit with your child or student occasionally and guide a discussion about the text.

The Lexile Framework® for Reading

The Lexile Framework is an even finer system, based on an algorithm which simultaneously measures vocabulary and sentence length. Developed by MetaMetrics targets books on the appropriate reading level for the child’s ability and matches reader ability with text difficulty based on the numeric Lexile scale. The Lexile system only includes prose. Poems, songs, or plays are rated as NP (non-prose). Read-aloud books are rated AD (adult directed). Books with a Lexile measure below zero are BR, or Beginner Readers. Finally, if a book is suitable for advanced readers who need age-appropriate material, it is rated NC, or nonconforming Text. This is usually the case when a book’s vocabulary and sentence length are complex compared to the subject matter.

Scholastic’s book wizard sometimes displays a book’s Lexile Measure, but the Lexile’s Find a Book database can specifically look up a book’s Lexile score, or show books of a specified level. There is also a Lexile range chart available on the website, reproduced below.

Developmental Reading Assessment

The Developmental Reading Assessment, or DRA, identifies the independent reading level for students in grades K-8. You can measure reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension using the DRA numerical scale. Students are said to be at, near, above, below, or significantly below grade level. You can match the DRA score with books in the appropriate level.

A correlation chart including commonly used leveled reading scales

The same correlation chart displays DRA levels alongside the F&P Guided Reading Levels. The DRA is similar to the Grade Level Equivalent system, but is somehow more informative than the latter.

Scholastic’s Book Wizard does often display a book’s DRA level just like any other scale, and a few other sources can also search books by their DRA level.

Other leveled reading scales

Teachers and publishes may use other lesser known systems, including Interest Level, Grade Level, and Reading Recovery. Interest Level indicates the grade at which students are most likely to find a book’s content engaging. Grade Level is the most understandable and basic system. It is often used alongside a basal series to teaching reading. This system is best suited to searching science or social studies books for a unit of study. Reading Recovery is an intensive, one-on-one program designed to supplement reading lessons for students who are slow to read. This system by itself is intended to be compared with guided reading levels, but by itself, this system has limited usefulness.

Which Leveled Reading System should you use?

Once you understand these systems, you’re probably which leveled reading system you should use. The answer depends on several factors.

As I mentioned before, introducing leveling systems to younger readers is not meaningful and can be distracting. Meanwhile, older readers might feel offended or threatened. Feel free to vary reading books at a range of levels, rather than stressing a specific, rigid level for your student.

As a teacher, your reading methods and materials might suggest an appropriate leveling system based on your curriculum. If you teach guided reading, the Guided Reading levels are probably better suited to you. Meanwhile, if your curriculum or school uses a Lexile scale assessment program, you should use Lexile measurements, and et cetera.

Another consideration to make as a teacher is if your colleagues are on the same page. If other teachers are devoted to one system, it’s more beneficial to learn and use that one to facilitate communication and avoid confusion.

With parents, reading level discussions can be sensitive. I am sure to inform parents to avoid discussing reading levels around their children. Parents tend to compare their children to other classmates or to themselves when they were children. The safest option is to remain vague about grade levels. The DRA system – above grade level, on grade level, and below grade level – can inform parents about their student’s progress simply and easily.

Conclusion and Takeaway

Remember that these systems are important, but they are guides, not rules. It is essential and helpful to make use of them, but rigidity may harm a student’s progress. Each student is unique in their situation, and being flexible in your judgement is always best. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or a student, being well-informed and making appropriate use of the tools at hand will help you make wise choices about your child’s books.

I hope you found this piece helpful and informative. If you did, leave a like and a comment, and tell me your thoughts on Leveled Reading. You can also share this page through your favorite social media platforms and subscribe, so you can receive notifications when more content is posted here. Thank you.

Back-to-School: Things You Don’t Need to Buy

That exciting, yet dreadful time of the year has come again, and looms ever closer: Back to School.

For students and parents alike, there are a lot of mixed and confusing feelings about returning to school for the new year. For students, especially children, there is the excitement of going back to seeing friends regularly, to meeting new teachers and new friends, perhaps to doing something besides sitting at home. But there is also the sadness and longing as the lazy and free summers disappear, and the prospect of hardwork, grades, and homework comes nearer and nearer. Parents encounter equally mixed, yet arguably stronger feelings. Their kids are happy to return to school and meet their teachers, and parents feel relieved to have a little more time to themselves during the week days.

But if there is one thing parents look forward to at the end of summer, it’s definitely not Back to School Shopping. Who doesn’t like escorting an ever-filling cart of expenses down aisle after aisle of a chaotic grocery store, while dodging nags, arguments, and bickers left and right? According to the National Retail Federation, families with children in elementary school through college spent roughly 27.5 billion dollars on back to school shopping in 2018.That’s an average of $684.79 per family. That number is expected to increase to $696.70 per family, says the NRF.

But there’s good news. A good chunk of the back-to-school shopping lists can be crossed off. Here are a few things you don’t need to buy to help save you money


I know what you’re thinking. Pencils are, like, the first things most people might think of at back to school time. But chances are, you don’t need to buy packs of pencils. More than likely, there are perfectly usable pencils around the house. If there aren’t, rather than buying a box for each child, consider buying a supply for the house and allowing two or three at a time. If you give your child 24 pencils, chances are, they won’t be as careful with them, knowing they have plenty more, and they will lose them more easily. Keep in mind that for younger children, pencils are usually already available in their classrooms. Also, decorative pencils may be nice, but they aren’t necessary, and they are comparatively pricier than the simpler ones.

Next: Rub these off the list too


The same principle for pencils applies to erasers. A student would definitely benefit from having one singular gummy eraser, and it may encourage them to keep their work neat without borrowing from others. Admittedly, the little erasers at the tops of wooden pencils are a hit-or-miss in regards to quality. If you want to buy a value pack of simple erasers, ration them out to your students one at a time and don’t immediately resupply them if they are lost. This will encourage them to keep track and be responsible of their belongings, and will save money in the long run.

Next: You don’t need these. I’m sticking to it.


Will your student need glue for the occasional project poster or cut-and-paste assignment? Yeah, probably outside of class. Will they need to have a glue stick handy at all times and a readily available supply of backups? Not likely. On the occasion an assignment calls for glue, every classroom always has a supply of glue bottles and sticks to use in class. At home, you could keep one or two in a desk or near the homework table to be returned when your student is finished. Otherwise, cross these off your list and save the money for other supplies or necessities.

Next: Blot these off your shopping list.

White Out

White out, or corrective fluid, has been a sensation since it came onto the shelves. It was an amazing way to “erase” otherwise permanent pen work. Although white out is a nice concept, though, it’s messy and pretty expensive. Students tend to make a mess and use too much. But most importantly, many teachers prefer to see the mistakes students make, which help them to understand the students’ thinking processes. A single pen strikethrough is more desirable, even on final draft, than blots of white out.

Next: I don’t remember ever needing to bring one of these from home.


One high school teacher told Forbes, in fifteen years of teaching, he never had an assignment which required a clipboard. Yet I often see parents buying these for their students, or even more surprisingly, giving them those expensive ones with the storage compartments. I’m telling you now, they will never find usefulness and will only add to your student’s backpack load. Classrooms have these available if they are ever needed, and if you need one at home, keep one there, or even make one.

Next: You can count on not needing these.


Many teachers discourage the use of calculators almost all the way into high school, as they prefer to see the student show their work and calculations by hand. In the cases where calculators are needed, classrooms already have them on hand for students to use. In the few classes, such as Physics, upper level Algebra, or Calculus, graphing calculators are also supplied during class work or tests. For all other situations, a four function calculator or even a smart phone or tablet has all the function a student will need, so you can cross these off your shopping list.

Next: Dry-erase this from the list, too.


Dry erase whiteboards may seem like a nice and fun way to do math or other practice at home, but in actuality, they are expensive and tend to cause a messy distraction. Most students that have them spend class or homework time drawing on them, or losing the markers or caps. Dry erase boards are already starting to become available in most elementary classrooms that make use of them. If you want your child to experience this without the extra expenditure, consider a budget option. A piece of white paper in a binder protector sheet or a laminated piece of printer paper works just fine instead, and can even be hole-punched and put in a binder.

Next: Hm, lemme check. Yup. I will be needing these zero days this year.


It’s definitely a good idea to teach your children to be organized and write down their assignments. But most schools I’ve taught at already have their own planners which the student fills out as part of the daily agenda. High school students and even some middle school students are tending towards using phone or computer calendars to track assignments rather than on physical planners. Cross ’em off!

Next: Almost never needed

Note Cards

Note cards are also very situational. They used to be ubiquitous study tools when it came to preparing for tests or vocabulary assessments, but most times, students are using digital flashcards such as Quizlet. I suggest buying a cheap value pack for a dollar or so and putting them away until they are requested by the teacher.

Next: Nothin’ Beatz saving money on these.


Every kid wants headphones or earbuds these days, and most of the time, it’s not for school, but for music or their phone. They may even insist on bluetooth headsets or namebrand headphones, which can cost over $100. But they don’t need them, and even if you buy them cheap, they will likely break or get lost within a week or two. Teachers and libraries almost always have them available to be loaned out. If they really want a special set, have them earn them with an allowance or good performance.

Next: Thinking long term

Disposable Lunch Supplies

Listen, all those zipper plastic bags, spoons, and forks are super wasteful and harmful for the environment. Plus, you miss out on teaching your children responsibility. A 280 count pack of sandwich bags and a supply of plastic cutlery for the year would cost around $15-20 dollars per child. Instead, invest in reusable supplies and teach your child to bring them home each day. You’ll save money and the environment.

Next: Holes in teeth and in pockets.

Candy and Toys

Imagine your child hyped up on sugar and sweets and/or distracted by their favorite toy. Now imagine 15 to 25 of them in a classroom, where you attempt to explain long division or the Mayflower. Need I say more? Teachers hate it when students bring candy. Leave the candies and toys for a special reward, and not as a shopping staple. I know this is particularly hard for parents who have to take their children back to school shopping with them. You can do it!

Next: Let’s clean our hands of these expenses

Hand Sanitizer

Many schools have begun petitioning to ban students from bringing hand sanitizer to school. Their ingredients are controversial and some studies have even shown schoolchildren who use hand sanitizer are still getting sick. Controversy aside, they are distracting and students sometimes argue or distract each other with them in class. Many school facilities have their own supply readily available, so these aren’t necessary.

Next: Nice in theory, but still useless and unneeded.

Mechanical Pencils

Students love mechanical pencils because they are more interactive and don’t have to be sharpened. But here’s the thing. Students tend to lose these just as often as normal pencils, which are much cheaper. The lead gets lost or runs out, the clicker gets jammed, the eraser gets rubbed out. When it comes down to it, they are just as much of a hassle as ordinary pencils, with a higher price tag.

Next: Even more unneeded in this age

Loose-Leaf Paper

Students don’t need big packs of lined or blank loose-leaf paper to take to school. These days, most classrooms are doing class work and homework digitally. Wire-bound notebooks are more ideal and are perforated to allow for easy tear-out. Most backpacks I have seen are crammed with loose papers stuffed at the bottom and forgotten. Let’s move away from that.

Next: And the other side of the spectrum

Multi-Subject Notebooks

I remember how neat those things were, but they really aren’t ideal in reality. Most classes are shifting towards digital work, and those that aren’t usually prefer a separate notebook for their class. Often, these end up becoming a very expensive pack of scratch paper. Save money and buy those wire-bound, single subject notebooks instead. And don’t forget to encourage students (especially younger ones) to use up all the blank spaces for scratch paper when they can.

Next: A tradition which needs to stop

A New Closet

Getting into hot territory here. I get it. It’s a new school year. You can’t be wearing the same clothes as last year. But this is far too widespread and it’s an issue. When you switch the old wardrobe out for a new one at the beginning of the year, not only are the older clothes thrown away or left unused, but your children will learn to throw away things which still have use. A couple new shirts or pants are nice, especially for growing children who are rapidly changing sizes.

If you have many children, make sure to pass lightly used clothes down to the next child to make the most use of the garments, and if they clothes are worn out, keep some as play or work clothes, or give them to a local shelter or charity organization. The National Retail Federation projected almost one-third of Back to School spending is on clothing and shoes, so there is a lot of room for savings!

Next: Kick overspending

New Shoes

Unless your children have outgrown or obviously wore out their shoes, you don’t need to buy new ones. I met some families who have to buy new shoes sometimes three or four times a year. Teach your children to be responsible and careful with the shoes they have, then buy a new pair it’s necessary, not simply because they are on sale and it’s the new year. On the same note, there is no need to buy expensive gym or specialty shoes for students unless they are specifically requested by teachers. Most of the time, if a student needs them, they are available for use or purchase through the school.

Next, and finally: Really challenging tradition


Yes, they are on sale. Yeah, they have cool rollers and zippers. Sure, the one from last year maybe has a few scuffs. Once again, this is about saving money. If a parent would voluntarily like to purchase a new backpack every year and stick to traditions, they are free. But a good backpack should have a lifespan of up to two years or more if treated right. This is especially true, considering backpack loads are getting lighter and lighter. Students won’t need to bring as many textbooks and notebooks as laptops begin to take over. Teach your child responsibility and reward this with whatever goodies you see fit. And, please, don’t bring those big roller backpacks. They often get banged up, ripped, and dilapidated and they sometimes cost twice or thrice the price of a regular backpack.


I know that Back to School is exciting, and parents want to make sure their children have everything they need to succeed. But overspending on back to school supplies is not only costly. It teaches bad values in the end. All of the items I mentioned are not bad to buy for your children. But tradition and culture have turned some of them into staples where they really should be given when earned. In other cases, the changing times and the dissemination of the internet has changed classrooms and many of the things we used to need are being done away with. Back to School night can be exciting and fun, but it doesn’t have to be expensive!

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Education Blogs Rock

Whether you are a teacher, student, parent, school administrator, or virtually any other member of society, you need to follow and read education blogs. Why?

Keeping up on education blogs isn't hard and it doesn't have to take a lot of time either.

The education system is a very vast network which incorporates nearly every member of society. The centerpiece is the student, and his (or her) teachers, parents and guardians, tutors, mentors, principals, secretaries, and many others support him (or her) on the lifelong journey through learning. After all, it takes a village to raise a child. The stronger the cooperation between the village constituents, the more effective the nurturing of the child will be. On the other hand, when sufficient cooperation is absent between all the parts of the education system network, the quality of education and the opportunities it may bring are compromised.

Efforts exist such as Parent Teacher Association meetings and other instances where parent-teacher-student correspondence is facilitated. But often these connections are limited by the parents’ schedules and geography. Any number of factors can get in the way of participation and communication, including household income, busy work schedules, or language barriers, particularly among migrant families. Even in cases where open and frequent communication between students, teachers, and parents exist, be they in-person meetings, e-mails, or telephone conversations, these correspondences very rarely transcend beyond the school or institution in question.

Going Beyond PTA meetings

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an easy and accessible way for parents, teachers and students from around the county, state, country, or even around the world, to communicate with one another, to share creative and innovative ideas, to exchange advice and experiences, and to spark energy from one another? Wouldn’t it be nice if teachers and parents from anywhere in the world could discuss issues and problems they faced, and what did and didn’t work for them? Well, there is!

That’s exactly the role that education blogs take on. Written by teachers, parents, students, and experts, these blogs are the most accessible way for teachers and parents to inspire and encourage one another towards their students’ success. With the dissemination of computers, tablets, and smartphones to almost every school-age and older individual, such sources of imagination are just a couple taps away and serve as an invaluable tool.

It doesn’t even take much time either. A couple of minutes spent here and there can open your eyes to problems and solutions you may never have even thought you knew. Even if the information doesn’t directly and immediately benefit you today, by sharing and spreading these pages to other readers, you are doing your part to make this information more easily accessible to those who would otherwise have scrolled by it. Share them on your favorite social media or email them to your coworkers or friends.

Some Blogs to Follow

TeachThought.com made a convenient list of a handful of education blogs which stand out for unique style and excellent content. Check out the list and find a few which interest you. And don’t forget to show your support by liking, sharing, and following the ones you visit. You can also find useful content on devoted pages on your favorite social media networks such as r/education on Reddit or Facebook pages. You might also search the internet for education blogs specific to your city, town, district, or state.

To save you a few clicks, I’ve listed a handful of the education blogs from TeachThought.com’s list below, but do be sure to visit them and show your appreciation. I’ll also be adding other blogs that I come across to the list, so be sure to reach out and contact me if you manage your own or know of any.

Traditional Elementary Education Blogs

These blogs focus on important topics of elementary education such as ideas for reaching students in the classroom, school administration issues, classroom organization, creative and innovative design, teaching lessons by standards, and resources for parents and teachers of various situations.

Traditional College Education

These blog pages are geared towards college and high school students, teachers, and parents. They address entrance exams, study habits, advice to parents and students about transitioning to college, financial aid, and even tips for saving on supplies, textbooks, and scholarships, as well as ideas to help teachers and educators improve productivity, tech integration, and teaching strategies.

E-learning and Education Technology

The following blogs are authored globally and focus on online or distance education programs, digital story telling, technology in the classroom, networking, and education philosophy and psychology, as well as major educational and technology issues and classroom solutions.

Education Policy Blogs

These pages address important and current education issues including teacher unions, curriculum development, policy, teacher evaluations, and all the politics which goes into educational administration. Check these for education news and opinion boards from teachers, parents, faculty, government officials, and even students.

Learning Technique Blogs

These blog pages focus on general learning techniques, such as memorization skills, brain function, education strategies, and tips on how to learn.

Once again, don’t forget to subscribe, like, follow, and share any of the amazing pages and content you find above. Subscribe to ClassRocks as well to receive e-mail updates when new content and posts are made available.