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About the Reading Levels

To the parent:

Please be flexible in your use of the reading level designations. Always be willing to move up or down a level. Some books are simpler in content but more difficult in language, and a few are just the reverse. Many books are appealing to a certain age child, but are more challenging in their style; these books are great candidates for read-aloud books. The parent can explain here and there as he reads. The child will be happy to reread this book himself when he gets a little older.

You will notice that lots of books fall into two reading levels, such as the Paddington books, which are designated as primary and intermediate books. A proficient primary reader can read and enjoy these books, as well as younger intermediate readers.

Early Readers/Picture Books

Grade level rule of thumb: up to grade 1

These are titles which are good read-aloud books for the very young. They may also in some cases serve as first readers, though there is a significant range of sophistication in the texts and vocabulary. They are usually much shorter than the books in the higher levels.

Examples: Dr. Seuss, the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel, the Angus books by Marjorie Flack.


Grade level rule of thumb: grades 1-3

Books labelled "primary" are for beginner readers, and for more proficient but still very young readers who are not ready for the more complex content of some of the intermediate books. Though "primary" indicates that these books can be read by the child, many of these books make great read-alouds for beginning or pre-readers.

Examples: The Betsy books by Carolyn Haywood; Little Black, a Pony by Walter Farley; the Paddington books by Michael Bond


Grade level rule of thumb: grades 4-6

Children vary greatly in the age at which they become "intermediate" readers. Some will be ready for these books very early, some much later.

Children who are in line with our "rule of thumb" will find a great deal to interest them in the intermediate level. Please note that this is our largest and most elastic level, and that the books vary somewhat in difficulty. If you find that some of the intermediate titles are difficult, keep looking for a simpler intermediate book. (You can find some of these by looking for books that fall into both the primary and intermediate levels.)

Some highly motivated younger children (grade 2 or 3), will force themselves to tackle harder material because they just can't wait to read more interesting, complex stories. For these kids, it doesn't matter much if they don't understand every word or event in the book. They are getting a lot out of these harder books, or they wouldn't be reading them. And they will be happy to reread them two or three years later, and enjoy the books even more then. Meanwhile, their love of reading is fueled by these exciting books, and their proficiency is increasing as they tackle more challenging material.

Many of our intermediate titles make wonderful read-aloud books for smaller children. And the best of these can be enjoyed by any age person, child or adult!

Examples: The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder; The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series; the Tintin books by Herge.


Grade level rule of thumb: grades 7-9

These books are for kids who are a little more mature, and are looking for longer, more complex books with (possibly) more serious or subtle content.

Exmples: The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien; titles by Rosemary Sutcliff; titles by Louisa May Alcott; Kidnapped! by Robert Louis Stevenson

Young adult

Grade level rule of thumb: grades 10-12

Though these were not written as children's books, they are wonderful choices for the teenage reader who has exhausted the intermediate and advanced level books. All of these books are exciting, powerful, and yes, wholesome. Some of these selections deal with mature issues, but never in a lewd or explicit fashion and always in a moral context. We do suggest that parents always exercise extra caution when considering adult literature for their teenage children.

Examples: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; Mutiny on the Bounty by Nordhoff and Hall; All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot