Reading Level Tools

DD’s learning consultant told me about some neat links you can go to in order to determine at what level your child is reading. DD has been reading with increasing confidence lately; some of the things she can read surprises me. I was curious to know how her reading skills compared with grade level expectations.

Last week she read several pages of The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Habit (I can’t stand this book, but that’s another story). The LC showed me that Amazon now has a new feature whereby you can find out the reading level of a particular book. If you click on the link for the book, scroll down the page to the “Inside this Book” section and look for “Concordance”. Click on that, scroll down to “text stats” and under “readability” you’ll see the Flesch-Kincaid Index Score. This tries to relate the book to US Grade Levels. Apparently, this book reads at about a Grade 4 – 5 level. I dunno, seems a bit high to me.

There’s another cool feature over at the Literacy Trust called the SMOG test (Simplified Measure of Gobbledygook). It allows you to type in a minimum of 30 words from any text and it will calculate the reading level. The scores are a bit confusing to me, however. I think they are based on adult literacy. Everything from 0-6 is considered “low literate” and apparently an example of this level is Soap Opera Weekly (!). Level 7 is “junior high” and 9 is “some high school”.

Neat idea, but I’m not sure how useful it is. For example, I typed in this back page synopsis from one of DD’s books called A Sticker Book of Dinosaurs. She read it to me the other day, for the first time (we picked it up at a swap recently):

“Do you like Dinosaurs? Then get set for ages of fun as you answer the riddles, find the stickers, and complete the colourful scenes in this sticker book all about dinosaurs.”

I even left out the words “complete” and “scenes” because DD stumbled over them. Still it came back as Level 9.7, somewhere between Readers Digest and Newsweek.

Whatever grade level DD is reading I honestly don’t care. She’s enjoying herself, all her reading is spontaneous and self-driven, and she’s improving every week. To me, that is all the progress I need to hear. But I confess, I’m only human. I tend to get defensive about homeschooling with some members of my family and it’s nice to have that little tidbit in my back pocket “Oh well, DD is already reading at a grade school level”. It keeps them happy and off my back.

In a related note: DS will be 3.5 next month and he just read his first two words to me “Yes” and “No”. They were printed on the side of our recycling box and he read them while waiting to get into the car in our garage. I know how it is he came to know these words: he plays a lot of Wii games (specifically Super Mario Galaxy) and you often have to select between Yes and No. Who says video games can’t be educational?

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