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How to Know if your Child is Reading at Grade Level; The Importance of Early Intervention

Reading, writing and spelling are closely intertwined. The best instruction incorporates all three. If you are wondering if your child is at grade level, the best place to start is identifying your child’s reading level. (Writing and Spelling will be discussed in a future post.)

Most schools use GUIDED READING LEVELS. These levels begin with A and move to Z. A is easiest. Z is the most complex. Many school districts use the Benchmark Assessment System to determine a student’s reading level. Ask your child’s teacher what your child’s reading level is (and what system they are using), then use this grade level reading chart to see where they are.

What level should my child be reading?

Check out grade level equivalents for common reading assessments used in schools below. From

So, now that you know your child’s reading level, what next?

My Child is Below Grade Level Expectations

Early intervention is crucial. It allows students to get help before reading problems become entrenched and complicated by self-concept issues.

“Once children fall behind in the growth of critical word reading skills, it may require very intensive interventions to bring them back up to adequate levels of reading accuracy."
Furthermore, "Reading fluency may be even more difficult to restore because of the large amounts of reading practice that is lost by children each month and year that they remain poor readers" (Allington & McGill-Franzen,1994; Vaughn & Schumm, 1996), (Rashotte, Torgesen, & Wagner, 1997).”

Reading is the gateway for success. When readers are struggling, It is most important to identify the root of their challenge. Enlist the help of a dedicated expert, such as a Reading specialist, who have training to identify and teach skill deficits.

Possible Skill Deficits

For example, a reading specialist will dig deep to answer questions like these:

  • Can the child hear and discriminate the discrete sounds within words?

  • Does the child know the sound-symbol correspondences any spelling and pronunciation rules? Can they apply them when reading unknown words?

  • Can the child use syllable types to decode unknown words?

  • Does the child read in phrases that promote understanding (comprehension)?

  • Is the child monitoring their understanding of the story and if not, how can this be addressed?

Possible Teaching Targets

Once the practitioner identifies the target for instruction, an individualized learning plan can begin.

  • If the student is weak with sound discrimination and manipulation, phonemic awareness lessons are needed.

  • If the student can not decode unknown words efficiently, the practitioner will teach direct, explicit, systematic and cumulative instruction on letter sounds and syllable types.

  • If the student is not reading with prosody (expression and meaningful phrasing), the specialist will teach the student to scoop phrases and read with intonation and pace to increase comprehension.

  • If the student is not comprehending, the specialist will use techniques such as imagery and questioning to address this area of need.

Importance of Early Intervention

Why is early reading intervention important for children? Research shows that children who fail in reading and do not improve by the end of their first grade year are at high risk of failure in other academics throughout school (McIntosh, Horner, Chard, Boland, & Good, 2006).

Research also indicates that students who struggle in reading and do not get effective intervention tend to continue to perform poorly until they lose interest in education and stop trying and their educational opportunities and self concept are negatively affected. Early reading intervention will help each individual to feel good about themselves as learners and have the chance to succeed academically.

Knowing your child’s reading level is vital. If your child is at grade level, let's cheer. Use the Scholastic Book Wizard to find just right books to keep reading alive. You can focus on developing a love of reading. Choose books on topics that interest your child.

What if a Child is Below Benchmark?

If your child is reading below grade level, do not fear. Now you know. This information gives you notice of a reading deficit and will prompt you to advocate for reading support. Remember, you are the most important promoter for your child.

If you are reading this, you have already taken the first step towards helping your child reach grade level expectations. Everybody can learn to read. They just need the right instruction. Help is available.

How Much Reading Intervention Will a Child Need?

Literacy leader Dr. Louisa Moats explains that struggling readers need adequate intervention time with a trained reading specialist using specialized instruction to achieve reading goals.

The exact amount of time will vary based on student age and needs.

Research has identified 60 hours as the amount of time needed for the effects of intervention to become measurable. For a student to achieve a significant increase in skills, a significant investment in time and effort is required and 60 hours seems to be the sweet spot. (Bits of Wisdom for All.)

What to Read:?

In addition to intervention with a trained reading specialist, struggling readers need lots of reading practice at home. For struggling readers, Decodable Books are often a good choice. Decodable books contain only words that students can sound out based on what they have learned so far, and contain far fewer words that have irregular spelling patterns or are hard to sound out.

Some Online Resources for Decodable Books include:

Earliest Decodables:

Longer Decodable Books:

What if my child is reading At or Above Grade Level Expectations?

If your child is reading above grade level expectations, congratulations! It’s time to nurture their love of reading, and determine if you have just right books available at home. Just right books are books in the range of their Guided Reading Level. Independent books can be two levels below. Instructional books can be at Guided Reading Level and on occasion one level above. It's also OK for student to read books above or below their level that they love. Interest and engagement are key.

If you need a tool to determine the reading level of books you have at home or get at the library, the Scholastic Book Wizard works well. Use this tool to find books that are just right for your reader.

“Reading is important because if you can read you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything.” Tomie dePaola

Does Your Child Need Support with

Reading, Writing, Or Math?

The Joy of Learning provides engaging, evidence based instruction in reading, writing, and math, for students with diverse learning styles in grades K-12, taught by highly qualified learning specialists.

We offer 1-1 instruction in - person in the Boulder and Denver, CO areas, and the Jackson, WY area. Students at all locations can access our services through virtual instruction.

Interested to Learn More? Book a Free Consultation Here, or visit our homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list, below to receive valuable tips about supporting your unique learner.

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