Matching Book Levels to Reading Ability

Finding appropriately challenging books for children to read can be, well, a challenge. Because reading levels are measured in different ways, you’ll find that the same book may be classified for different grade levels and reading abilities.

Let’s look at how two books are leveled by different reading assessment systems: Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. (Jump below for the full comparison chart.)

According to Lexile scores, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is classified at 950L as a book appropriate for students reading at a mid-4th grade level. Despite being 102-pages longer, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’s 880L Lexile score suggests that kids at a late-3rd grade reading level could successfully read the book.

That doesn’t seem like too much of a difference, but what about another rating system?

Well, the Fountas-Pinnell Guided Reading Level assessment – which uses ten separate text characteristics to determine reading level instead of two criteria like the Lexile system – classifies the 1st Harry Potter book as an appropriate reading challenge for children reading at a late-5th grade level. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, on the other hand, is rated for early 5th-grade reading levels.

Comparison chart of readability scales

Comparison Chart of Reading Leveled Books

Book: Charlotte’s Web Diary of a
Wimpy Kid #1
Harry Potter #1
Grade Level: 3rd – 7th 3rd – 8th 5th – 12th
Lexile: 680L 950L 880L
Guided Reading Level: R T V
DRA: 40 50 50

Which reading level rating system you choose to use – if you decide to use one at all – comes down to personal preference. If you are not sure which books to suggest that your child should read, Lexile scores and Guided Reading Levels can help. The rating scores can help you hone in on books that your child will be most successful with reading and understanding.

Reading level scores do not mean, however, that your eager reader cannot or will not be successful reading a book outside of their ability range. Content, interest, and student maturity all play a role in successful reading comprehension.

Free Online Book Databases That Match Reading Levels