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"A good education for every child does not mean the same education for every child.  "

Please use what works for you and your child and ignore the rest.  Every child is different.  If this information does not seem to be a good fit for your particular child, then keep looking and experimenting until you find what works.


This Web Page by Pauline Harding for Art Nurk,
Contents may be copied for personal use if credit is given.  Please ask for permission before any other use.  Do not copy this information onto your own web site without permission..

 Choosing Books at the Right Level

Independent Reading Level

If kids are going to read on their own, they need books at the right level.  For independent reading, they should know 95% of the words – that’s missing 5 or less words in a hundred.  Make sure they can also comprehend the story. 

Instructional Reading Level

When you are reading a book together, you want some words the child doesn’t know, but not so many that they get bogged down.  Professionals suggest choosing text where the child knows 90% of the words – missing 5-10 or less words in a hundred.

Frustration Reading Level

If a child knows less than 90% of the words – missing more then 10 words in a hundred – he is likely to get frustrated.  He is less likely to comprehend the material, since many of the missed words are likely to be important to the story.

Reading together can be useful here –the child can read the words he is likely to know, he can sound out some that he is likely to get, and you can read the rest, perhaps summarizing each sentence or paragraph as you go along, to ensure comprehension.

Books for Beginners

It’s hard to find appropriate books for raw beginners.  Just because a book is labeled “level one” does not mean it is appropriate for beginners to read themselves!  Try writing your own books/sentences, or doing reading practice with individual words, like word wall games using magnetic letters.  Make sure you are also reading more complex books aloud to the child!

All that time you spent reading the same book over and over again pays off here.  If the child has already more-or-less memorized the book, they can concentrate on really decoding each word, without losing the story.

Ongoing Assessment

While you read together, you can assess reading strengths and needs by looking at the missed words.  Does the child use the sounding out strategies?  (They may do this silently, once they are more experienced.)  Do they use the context cues (perhaps substituting a synonym that is nothing like the actual word)?  Are they aware of grammar (noticing when words don’t seem to fit well).  Give them time to self-correct – this is an important habit.  Are there particular types of words the child has trouble with (silent e, blends, etc.)?  Use this information to help guide your instruction.