Reading Levels

Copyright Dev Petty.

I have to admit, I have something of a love/hate relationship with reading levels.  In my educational writing, I have to write to a specific level.  It is a great feeling to hit it on the first try which I manage to do at least half the time.

And reading levels are helpful when talking to other adults.  Why?  Because most of them have only a very vague idea what I do.  So when I say that I’ve written a book about X topic, I can add “it is written for teens.”  No, they still don’t have a solid idea what I do but they have enough information that they don’t feel lost.  Think of it as a parlor trick.

So where does the hate part of that love/hate relationship come in?  I hate what reading levels mean for young readers.

Instead of telling Joshua that that picture book is too young for him and that book with no photos too old, we should follow his lead.  Let him select some easier books.  Picture books are great fun and can make an accessible introduction to a topic.  If he enjoys what he reads, he may very well go looking for a harder book.

And harder books?  As long as it is a matter of reading level?  Challenging yourself to read a difficult book seldom does permanent damage.

In my experience, kids develop a love for books by being given unfettered access.  Help them find a book if they ask.  Otherwise, stand back.  Unless they need help carrying the stack.

The poster at the top of the page was created by illustrator Dev Petty. She drew this after discussing reading levels with her 9-year-old daughter.  After being approached by so many of us who would like to buy a print, she has made that possible.  Click here to visit Elvis Westward prints and order your copy.

–SueBE