Levels have a critical role in the hands of teachers who understand their complexity and use them to make good decisions in instruction. But levels are complicated! Parents don’t have the training that teachers have in understanding reading levels, so assigning their child a letter as a way to communicate their reading progress can cause misconceptions and misunderstandings.
Here are some ways to communicate a student’s reading progress, as well as how they can support literacy at home without sharing a reading level.
Share Student Reading and/or Writing About Reading
In order to show a student’s progress, try showing parents/caregivers what their child was reading at the beginning of the year vs. the end of the year and talk through some of the text characteristics of each book so parents can see that difficulty is increasing. Show samples of the child’s thinking about books from their Reader’s Notebook.
Communicate Progress and Support
Use appropriate, everyday language that parents can understand. For example, “your child is reading at a level that is about what we would hope for at this point in time in this grade,” or “your child is not yet reading at a level that we would hope he would be reading at, but we are supporting your child in these ways,” etc.
Talk About the Child’s Engagement with Reading
Share how many books the child has read, what his tastes are, whether the child is putting in a lot of effort or showing initiative.
Encourage Talk About Books
A child’s talk reflects his thinking. Encourage parents to engage children in talk about the books they read together. Guide talk about what interests their children, what authors/illustrators they love, or simply initiate everyday conversation about books.
Visit the Library Together
Discover new books or reread old favorites together! Encourage authenticity. Remind parents that children need to choose books in a way that all readers do—books that interest and engage them.
Here is a printable version of these tips so that you can refer to them again and again, as well as share them with your colleagues. Advocating for the appropriate use of levels in our schools and within our classrooms is both a challenge and an opportunity.