Have you ever wondered what those letters mean on the front of your child's book?A "level" refers to the degree of difficulty of a book. Please remember that children are learners, not levels! A level describes the type of books a child can read at a given point in time. Many factors affect the difficulty level. Some are within the text (vocabulary and sentence length), and some are within the child (interest, background knowledge). Different levels are used for different purposes. While a more challenging level is used in the classroom to teach a strategy, an easier level is sent home to practice that strategy. Practice on easy books is very important. The following is an overview of the characteristics of text levels* along with sample titles and popular authors. It is common for easier levels to continue to be independent reads for older students. The Seaford Public Library has compiled a list of leveled books that can be found in their children's collection.
Level A, B - Very simple first reads for young children. Texts have 1-2 short sentences per page with lots of picture support. The books present a single concept like colors or things that move. Publishers such as Rigby, Sundance and Scholastic are popular rather than specific authors.
Level C, D - Longer stories with more print per page. The books are still simple and contain picture support. Print appears on the left and right pages. Vocabulary is familiar, but words have endings such as "ing" and "ed". Publishers like Scholastic, Rigby and Sundance continue to dominate the market.
Level E - Stories become slightly more complex with less picture support. Text may be above or below the pictures. Where's Spot - E. Hill, Foot Book - Dr. Seuss
Level F - The print is smaller and the language is more literary. Characters appear in stories that have a clear beginning, middle and end. Marmalade books - C. Wheeler, Rosie's Walk - P. Hutchins
Level G - H - Familiar characters are involved in more complex stories with multiple events. The Carrot Seed - R. Kraus, Amy books - J. Hoban , Titch - P. Hutchins
Level I - Greater variety in subjects and genres along with a different point of view are seen in these longer books. Just Me and My Dad - M. Mayer, Tidy Titch - P. Hutchins, Bear books - F. Asch
Level J - This is the beginning of easy chapter books with favorite characters who experience familiar events. Series books are popular because of the consistent characters, story elements and language. Length runs from 30-60 pages. Illustrations primarily enrich the text instead of giving strong support. Danny and the Dinosaur -S. Hoff, Fox books - E & J Marshall, Little Bear - E. H. Minarik, Henry and Mudge, Mr. Putter and Tabby - C. Rylant, Mouse Tales - A. Lobel, Amanda Pig books - J. Van Leeuwen, Cat in the Hat - Dr. Seuss
Level K- Familiar books once read aloud to the child may now be read silently. More complex stories and language appear. Settings and situations are less familiar. More background knowledge may be needed. Amelia Bedelia - P.Parish, Clifford - N. Bridwell, Frog and Toad Forever- A. Lobel, Madeline - L. Bemelmans, Nate the Great - S. Weinman
Level L - Longer chapter books with few illustrations require that the child sustain interest over several sittings. The characters are more complex and begin to show signs of changing over the course of a story. The plot has several events that lead to a conclusion. There seems to be a larger variety of titles at this level. Favorite authors from earlier levels continue to write more challenging series. New writers make their entrance, and many will grow with the child to young adulthood. Cam Jansen series - D. Adler, Triplet Trouble series - D. Dadey & M. Jones, Pinky and Rex series - C. Rylant, Magic Tree House series - M. Pope Oborne, Frances books - R. Hoban, Brigid series - K. Leverich, Marvin Repost series - L. Sacher
These levels span the intermediate years between third and eighth grade, but many titles continue to be independent reads for older students. As the levels move up through the alphabet, the topics take on more mature and complex themes. It is important to take into account all of these factors when guiding your child as he/she selects a "just right" book.
Level M - Highly detailed description requires more background knowledge and reading stamina. Chapter books require multiple sittings to complete. Character development is crucial. There are whole pages with no illustrations. Molly's Pilgrim - B. Cohen, Freckle Juice, One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo - J. Blume, Monsters Don't Scuba Dive - D. Dadley, The Lucky Baseball - M. Christopher, Russell - J. Hurwitz, The Littles Series - J. Petersen, Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr. - D. Adler
Level N - Memorable characters are created through the use of actions, dialogue and other character's thoughts. These characters are dynamic, or change over the course of the story. The reader feels empathy for the character based on similar experiences or emotions. New genres include stories of suspense and mystery. Nonfiction has more complex and unfamiliar content. Amber Brown Series - P. Danziger, Herbie Jones , Horrible Harry - S.Kline, Adam Joshua - J.L.Smith, The Case of the Snowboarding Superstar -J. Preller, Max Malone - C.Herman, The Leftovers - H. Tristan
Level O - Stories contain multiple characters. There is a large range of topics and genres available from historical fiction, sci-fi, humor to biography. Books tend to be 50 - 200 pages with more complex vocabulary and longer sentences. Aldo Ice Cream , Class Clown - J. Hurwitz, Babysitters Club - A. Martin, Angel Park Hoopsters - D. Hughes, Boxcar Children - G.C. Warner, Henry - B. Cleary, Pony Pals - J. Betancourt
Level P - Developed characters face realistic issues involving family and friends. Elements of humor and fantasy may be used in stories containing more serious themes. The topics of maturation and changing interests are popular. There may be detailed description of setting with more complex themes. Books contain over one hundred pages. All About Sam - L. Lowry, Encyclopedia Brown - D & R Sobol, Magic School Bus Series - J. Cole & B. Degen, Wayward School - L. Sachar, Pony Tails - B. Bryant, Time Warp Trio - J. Scieska
Level Q - Sophisticated themes pertaining to society, family and friendship are common. Historical fiction introduces different time periods with accurate details and dynamic characters. Nonfiction texts include more visual information like charts, cross-sections, diagrams and family trees. American Girl Series - various writers, Magic Attic Club - T.Reed, Joshua T. Bates - S. Shreve, Little House Series - L. I. Wilder, Anastasia Krupnik Series - L. Lowry
Level R - Historical fiction, fantasy and realistic fiction are popular. Setting is more fully described, and literary language such as simple metaphor may be used. Short stories may explore a common theme. Brian's Winter, Amos Series - G. Paulsen, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - R. Dahl, The Library Card - J. Spinelli, Misty of Chincoteague - M. Henry, Nightmare Mountain - J. Howe, Indian in the Cupboard - L. R. Banks, Shiloh - P.R. Naylor, There's a Frog in My Sleeping Bag - S. Clymer
Level S - Literary language is further developed with different shades of meaning and greater opportunity to interpret theme. Historical fiction and biographies add to background knowledge. All genres depict strong characters facing challenges. Bridge to Terabithia - K. Patterson, Dead Letter, The Pinballs - B. Byars, The Star Fisher - L. Yep, Lily's Crossing - P.R.Giff, Poppy - Avi, Young Merlin Trilogy - J. Yolen, The Lighning Thief - R. Riordan, The Borrowers - M. Norton, House With a Clock in the Walls - J. Bellairs
Level T - Literary language is more complex. Symbolism is used to carry a theme throughout a novel. Themes are more mature and may focus on growing up, divorce, death, prejudice and hardship. The reader is expected to have a wide background knowledge of different cultures, settings and situations including historical information. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - J. Blume, The Great Brain - J. Fitzgerald, Chronicles of Narnia - C.S.Lewis, The Watsons Go To Birmingham - C.P. Curtis, The Clique - L. Harrison, Sea of Monsters - R. Riordan, Jackie and Me (Baseball Card Adventures) - D. Gutman, Diary of a Wimpy Kid - J. Kinney
Level U - Several abstract themes converge in these novels. Characters are complex and express different points of view. Unusual formats may be used. Wait Til Helen Comes - MD. Hahn, Alice the Brave -P.R. aylor, Ella Enchanted - G. Levine, Drawing Lessons - T. Mack, Charlie Bone - J. Nimmo, Tangerine - E. Bloor, Bad Girls - C. Voight, The Boggart - S. Cooper, Crash & Wringer - J. Spinelli, Summer of the Swans - B. Byars, Jacob Have I Loved - K. Patterson
Level V- Biographies are not fictionalized and contain full historic content. Critical thinking is required to understand the author's implied message. Book length may reach 300+ pages. Themes include war and survival. Connections are made between books. Series of Unfortunate Events - L. Snicket, Chasing Redbird - S. Creech, But I'll Be Back - C. Rylant, Dogsong - G. Paulsen, Long Way from Chicago - R. Peck, Mysterious Benedict Society - T. Stewart, Hunger Games - S. Collins, Heroes Don't Run - H. Mazer, Harry Potter series - J.K.Rowling, Things Not Seen - A. Clements, Stargirl - J. Spinelli
Level W - Books explore the human condition using sophisticated literary language. Themes include learning from hardship, good triumphing over evil, and finding common ground among different cultures. Social and political issues may be involved in plot. Nonfiction uses complex charts and tables. Dragon Series - L. Yep, Dicey's Song - C. Voight, Orphan Train - J. L. Nixon, Hope Was Here - J. Bauer, Missing May - C. Rylant, Seventh Tower Series - G. Nix, Tiger Eyes - J. Blume, Slam - W.D.Myers, Lightning Thief - R. Riordan, Freak the Mighty - P. Rodman
Level X- Popular genres of science fiction and fantasy are further developed. Sci-fi uses technical jargon while fantasy becomes more literary. Symbolism and implied message are common. Flashbacks and unfamiliar settings provide a challenging reading experience. Maximum Ride - J. Patterson, Al Capone Does My Shirts - G. Choldenko, Midwife's Apprentice - K. Cushman, Travel Team - M. Lupica, April Morning - H. Fast, Gathering Blue - L.Lowry
Level Y- More mature themes are discussed in greater depth. Hero figures are popular. Irony and satire are used frequently. The Giver - L. Lowry, One Fat Summer - R. Lipsyte, The Girls - A. Koss, Abduction - P. Kehret, All American Girl - M. Cabot, A Corner of the Universe - A. Martin, Double Dutch - S. Draper
Level Z - Controversial issues are viewed from multiple perspectives. Details are more graphic. Unusual settings, time periods and characters intrigue the more mature reader. Across Five Aprils - I. Hunt, Among the Hidden - M.P. Haddix, The Contender - R. Lipstyte, I Am the Cheese - R. Cormier, Redwall Series - B. Jacques, The Outsiders - S.E.Hinton, Tears of a Tiger - S. Draper, Monster - W.D. Myers, Speak -L.H. Anderson
The information about levels was adapted from Fountas and Pinnell's Leveled Books, K-8:Matching Texts to Readers (2005) and The Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Book List K - 8+ (2009)Picture from Lakeshore Learning