How to Test Your Child’s Reading Level


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According to a 2009 study 67% of all US 4th graders were reading below grade level.  This has a domino effect on their performance in rest of the content areas.  For example, if a student is not reading on grade level they will have a hard time reading a history or science book that is written for their grade level.  If they are not getting the information in an understandable way from other sources such as class discussion or media, they may perform poorly in class and on exams.  There is a lot of work to be done, and some of it can be done at home.  One way to improve reading performance is to make sure students have reading materials that are matched to their reading level.   Testing the child’s reading level is an important first step in matching students with the appropriate reading level.

Why should you test your child’s reading level?
Needless to say improving a child’s reading level is quite important.  One way to help students improve their reading levels is to assess them and use the assessment results to provide them with reading materials that help them make progress.

How often should you test your child’s reading level?
Three to four times a year is sufficient.  You may need to test less based on your child’s individual circumstance. Some students who are participating in a reading intervention program can show improvements in a few months.  It is important however not to inundate children with formal assessments, because over testing can cause anxiety in both children and teens.

How to test your child’s reading level.
Testing reading level can be done formally or informally.  If your child is enrolled in a public or private school, the first thing I would suggest is to ask his or her teacher if they have given your child a reading assessment and if so check those results.

At home there are a few online resources that are helpful.   Sonlight, a website that sells homeschool curriculum has a quick assessment that goes up to about a 4th grade reading level.  Also the San Diego Quick Assessment, which is not meant to replace a comprehensive reading assessment, can give you a quick estimate on your child’s reading level.  Both quick assessment tools include very short lists of words.  When your child is showing frustration or is not able to read the words, stop to see what grade level he or she is reading at.

Another informal way of testing your child’s reading level is to use books at different reading levels.  This may take longer but, if your child does not know an assessment is happening, there may be less tension.

Here are a few resources to find a books reading level:

  • Accelerated Reader provides an online search tool to find out a books ATOS level.  The ATOS level corresponds to a particular grade level in school.  For example if the book level is 2.5, then the book difficulty is appropriate for someone in the middle of their 2nd grade year.  The ATOS levels however do not assess the books content.  For example a book like The Color Purple has an ATOS book level of 4.0, meaning the difficulty level is at 4th grade, however it the content if more appropriate for high school or adults.
  • Lexile is another book leveling resource, however Lexile levels are not based on grade levels.
  • Schoalstic’s website also provides a tool to search for books based on their various levels.

After you have found books at varying reading levels, observe your child reading to find out which ones are too difficult or too easy.  When your child knows all the words in the book, it is too easy.  If they stumble or struggle with the first page it is too difficult.    You can also use the “Five Finger Test” for determining if the the test is too difficult or easy.  For every word your child cannot read, place one finger down, if you have five fingers down, choose an easier book.  If they really like the book they are reading, do not do away with it, read it to them so they will learn the words in the book and continue to enjoy it.

Remember in all things, make sure to have fun reading.  For some students reading can be a struggle and an area of frustration.  Never use reading as a punishment or make it seem like a chore.  Children should enjoy reading and they get their first impression of how to feel about reading from home.

Mommies have you ever given your child an informal or formal reading test?  Have your children been tested for reading in school?  Share your experience in the comments below.

Angele is a wife to a wonderful creative husband, mother to two beautiful intelligent daughters and a lover of art, education and laughter.  She is the creator and author of ABC remix.


About Angele

Angele is a wife to a wonderful creative husband, mother to two beautiful intelligent daughters and lover of art, education and laughter. She is the creator and author of ABC remix