While I published an article titled Reading Levels: How I Assign Reading Levels to Books, How the Publishers Do It and How You Can Help Your Reader Find the Right Book at the Right Time that discusses how reading levels are determined by professionals and amateurs like myself, there is more on this subject to discuss. Determining the reading level of a book from the children's section is never easy, mostly because there are several different standardized methods of determining reading levels. And honestly, I really think that parents should make the actual reading level of a book their LEAST concern when helping their children to find suitable, quality reading material that will engage and inspire readers. As a bookseller I have plenty of parents tell me that that their seven-year-old is reading at a sixth, seventh or eighth grade reading level and, while I humor and praise these parents, I think that standardized tests that determine a child's reading level are virtually useless for many reasons. The only kids who should really be reading books written at an eighth grade reading level are sixth, seventh and eighth graders. The majority of books written at this level (a level determined questionable sources to begin with) are inappropriate for a seven-year-old for many reasons. More important than finding the right reading level is finding the right BOOK. I know one seven-year-old who is reading at an eighth grade level but is currently completely engrossed by the Magic Tree House series, which is technically second grade reading level, and I think this is great. Just because the text that she is reading is not written at her optimal or highest reading ability doesn't mean that she isn't learning. While she may not exposed to an eighth grade vocabulary when reading a Magic Tree House book, why does she, as a first grader, need to be?
When choosing a book for your child, or helping your child choose a book, what is most important, in my mind, is instilling a love of reading, a sense of adventure and the ability to make connections between what a child is reading and the world around her/him, to be able to put things in context and to be inspired to seek out new and different books to read and new and different subjects to learn about.
If you are the parent of a child reading a few (or more) levels above his/her grade, please read How to Choose Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers, an article I wrote when I started my blog four years ago and recently updated. My perspective and method comes from being a children's bookseller for seventeen years and helping parents, mostly parents of children with reading levels beyond their years, find good books for their kids and it is the reason I started this blog, books4yourkids.com.
Once you head into the realm of 4th, 5th and 6th grade reading level books, the page number continues to be a good indicator of reading level. 4th grade books will be around 200 pages, 5th and up, over 250 pages. JK Rowling's Harry Potter books have changed the world of children's books in so many ways, including the standard number of pages in a young adult book. 300 pages used to be considered long for a YA book fifteen years ago. Now no one thinks twice about publishing a 500 page book for 10 year olds. The kids who tend to read the longer books are the ones who are already bookworms. However, as JK Rowling proved, there are lots of 10 year olds willing to read 500+ pages.
And, when all else fails, feel free to email (firstname.lastname@example.org) me and I'll be happy to help as best I can!