Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Geeking Out - Leveling Books for New Readers

My 6yo and I GEEKED OUT last week. 

Over 2 days, we leveled our personal library following the Fountas & Pinnell system her teacher uses. In her first grade classroom, books are in tubs with a letter on them. Kids know their letter levels, and they get to pick from the book boxes for independent reading. 

The Fountas & Pinnell system creates a gradient of text levels, assigning a letter to the text difficulty from A to Z. The system uses word count, vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, content, etc. to assess how accessible books are to young readers.

Image by Anissat via

I started wanting to help my new reader. It turns out I learned quite a lot about picture books in the process. I also discovered my daughter (who can be a handful at homework time) loves doing analytical things as much as I do! When I was pooping out, she would bring down "just one more" stack of books. Now, most of our books have a lovely hot pink post it note with the letter on it.

You don't have to do your whole library to get the feel for how the system works. Here are the resources we used:

Scholastic Look Up - Scholastic has a website and an app which covered many of the books. The best place to start. If you have a school age child, you will start to notice the levels listed for many books in the scholastic flyer.

Lexile Scores  Look Up - If a FP level isn't listed, you may still see a Lexile score. Use a conversion charts to turn it into FP.

A to Z Teacher Stuff - This site had a few books which were missing elsewhere.
Bound To Stay Bookstore - This bookstore site had a good number of AR Levels. Use the conversion chart to turn it into FP.

Reading Level Conversion Chart - This chart compares Lexile, AR, and FP levels. So with one data point, you can translate to the other methods.

Some Easy Readers have the levels listed on the back. Also, some publishers, like Peachtree, have levels listed on their websites. 

What if you can't find the levels for a book? Well, I asked my cousin who is a second grade teacher, and she said "After a while of leveling books, you can tell just by reading them and comparing them to similar titles." I thought she was just being a stinker J , but I have to admit after going through the exercise you do start to see it.

I realized I had pushed books where the content was appropriate (i.e. The First Day of First Grade) but the reading level was way off. We also had an easy reader shelf; however, half of those books were really second grade readers which weren't accessible to my daughter. Now, she can easily find books right for her, and she can celebrate when she's read something a few levels up. 

Have you leveled books before? Please share any insights in the comments.

First Grade targets levels D to J. Here's our library to "K" to give you some perspective on how books level out:

Picture Book F&P Levels

Bathtime for Biscuit (Harper My First I Can Read)
Silly Sally

Feathers for Lunch
Bring on the birds

No, David!
Biscuit (Harper My First I Can Read)
Pete the Cat: A Pet for Pete (Harper My First I Can Read)

David Gets in Trouble
Tiger in my Soup
How Do Dinosaurs Say Good night
Boy and Bot

Sammy the Seal
Big Snowman Little Snowman (Random House Step Into Reading 1)
If you Give a Pig a Party
Hey, Pancakes

Fly Guy Meets Fly Girl
Pinkalicious Pinkie Promise (Harper I Can Read 1)
Just a Mess
Max Spaniel Best in Show
If You Give A Dog a Donut
Splish Splash (Scholastic Reader 2)
The Day Sheep Showed Up (Scholastic Reader 2)
I Want My Hat Back
Prairie Chicken Little

Ten Apples Up On Top
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
Hop on Pop
Harry the Dirty Dog
The Cat in the Hat
The Ice Cream King
Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?
Curious George
Three Hens and a Peacock
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

If you Give a Pig Pancake
If you Give a Moose a Muffin
Fluffy and the Firefighers (Scholastic Reader 3)
Splat the Cat with a Bang and a Clang (Harper I Can Read 1)
This is Not my Hat
Peppa Pig (The Tooth Fairy)
Children Make Terrible Pets
Camp K-9
Owl Babies
Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late
I’ve Got an Elephant
Snow Day
Knuffle Bunny
Kitten’s First Full Moon


  1. Interesting, Lauri! Thanks for the resources. Leveling sounds like it could help writers write to the appropriate age group. I'll have to give that a try, but it seems more difficult than It looks.

    1. If you use the scholastic app and the book is in there, then it's a piece of cake! If you feel like being anal like me and searching to find the missing books in a bunch of different places, then it's hard. I suppose if you feel like your manuscript compares to another book, you could figure out that one's level.

      To take this topic further, it's also about understanding the picture book market in that 5-8 area where things get fuzzy. Easy readers are in play, harder picture books are still being read to child if content is interesting, and kids want to read chap books too. Perhaps that's another post...

  2. Replies
    1. I should have gone to you as a resource since you are the AR level master!


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