Learning About Reading Levels

Children have three different reading levels.

Independent Level

If children can easily read material by themselves, they are on their independent level. This is the level at which children should read for their own enjoyment. At this level, your children recognize 99 percent of the words. This means that they will make no more mistakes than one word in 100 when reading a passage aloud to you. When material is very interesting, children might be able to read it independently, even though they are making more errors. In counting errors, don’t count minor errors such as reading “a” for “the” or forgetting a final “s.” In addition, their comprehension level on story questions should be close to 100 percent. 

Instructional Level

 The instructional level is the level at which children make about five errors in 100 words and need support from their teachers or parents. On simple recall questions about material, they should have at least 80 percent comprehension. This is the level where children best learn new vocabulary and make the most progress in increasing their reading skills. 

Frustration Level

At this level, children get bogged down in their reading and make more than five errors in 100. In answering comprehension questions about what is read, their accuracy level will be below 70 percent. Some children can handle missing more words without getting frustrated; however, missing more than 10 words in 100 is almost always frustrating to children.

If your children are not enthusiastic about reading beyond assigned reading, they may be choosing books that are simply too difficult for them to read by themselves. Whenever they select a new book, have them read a page or two aloud to you to make sure they can handle it comfortably.