In this month’s deep look at collections, we focus easy readers. They are often advertised as the first books children learn to read, but flipping through the titles is often surprising. Books go from one word a page, to full dialogue, to three paragraphs a page.
Patrons may request various levelling systems depending on their school. There are publisher levelling systems but they are not always consistent. Arguments are made for or against levels.
Many libraries take matters in their own hands and create their own levelling system to ease confusion. Let’s take a look at how to level easy readers at your library.
Criteria to Look At
A popular system for readers is the “five finger approach.” The reader opens a book and sees how many words they don’t understand on a page. The goal is to find books with 2-3 words you cannot understand. This is helpful and a good starting point for children and their caregivers.
Items to look for in your easy reader levelling includes:
- Number of words per page, and text size
- Amount of dialogue used
- Content and plot of book
- Amount of illustrations
- Variety and complexity of text
Questions and Considerations
Common questions that occur in easy reader levelling include:
How do we create a consistent system? At my last library, we created general parameters, made visual guides and then assigned librarians to evaluate and sticker books. Because we did not put anything into the catalog, we did not have to consult about every individual title.
What about nonfiction titles? It can be easy to lose nonfiction readers in the sea of Dewey. I’ve seen some libraries put them at the end of their Easy Reader section, others take them out and put them at the end of their nofiction section and even one library, interfile them all in.
Do we simply sticker or put the levels in the catalog? Stickers are an easy and visual way to explain the reader levelling. However, if someone wants to search from home, it is not very helpful. My last library opted out of putting the levels in the catalog because of the workload it provided and instead were automatically inputted Accelerated Reader levels.
Formal Levelling Systems
Many Easy Reader publishers have their own levelling systems, some with conversions to reading levels and others simply with their own criteria listed on the back of the book. (I Can Read, National Geographic Readers, DK Readers, and Green Light Readers to name a few.
Lexile is a commonly used framework for reading that grades a books complexity based on words. I find it helpful as a starting point in creating a levelling system.
Signage and Stickers
Key to any easy reader levelling project is clear and concise signage and organization. At my last library, we posted the levels and explanations on the chart. The levels were written out “Level One, Level Two, Level Three,” in different colors. This was done to help those who were color blind navigate the system. At my current library they have different colored round stickers depending on the level. I have also seen small handouts explaining levelling and naming titles in different levels.
Other Library Examples and Resources
- https://guessinggeisel.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.htmlHere’s an ALSC blog post from 2015 that asks for best practices in levelling readers. This 2021 ALSC blog post is an interview with Amy Seto-Forrester about early reader work at the Denver Public Library.
- This Reading A-Z Level Correlation Chart provides easy levelling conversions for Fountas and Pinnell, Lexile, and Learning A to Z.
- The ALSC Early and Family Literacy Toolkit showcases information about research and potential sources of research related to early and family literacy practices.
- Jean Little Library’s 2015 blog post on levelling her library’s easy readers.
- Team Up to Read at the Brooklyn Public Library “is a free, interactive series designed for children ages 5-9 and their caregivers. Offering a bridge between school and home, the program helps build strong readers by improving reading skills like comprehension and fluency with tips and fun activities, all while encouraging a lifelong love of reading.”
- Guessing Geisel is a blog that explores the Geisel Award and possible contenders.
Did you level your easy readers at your library? What worked and what didn’t? Let us know in the comments!