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Understanding Reading Levels

Helping your child find books that are appropriate for their reading level can be difficult, but it can be made even more so when a teacher requests that the books be at a particular level, letter or lexile. We’re here to help you break down and understand the different systems, which can be confusing.

The guide below is intended to help you understand the systems used by schools and search for books within those systems.

Accelerated Reader (or AR)
AR is a computer-based program where students take quizzes about the books they’ve read and then generates a report based on their results, which recommends a reading range. The goal is to establish a reading range for each child that is challenging, but not too difficult. This reading range is updated periodically throughout the school year based on your child’s quiz scores. Use ARBookfinder to search for titles in each reading range.

Basal or Grade Level
All of the big educational publishing houses, such as McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin, have their own ways of establishing appropriate reading levels for each grade. When a teacher says your child is reading above, below or at their grade level, they are most likely basing this on the reading level established by the company which produced their textbooks and workbooks.

Guided Reading Level
This popular system was developed by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell and is sometimes called Fountas Pinnell Guided Reading Level or F&P Text Level Gradient. It uses letters to rate books and give a range within a grade level. Search for titles within this system here.

Standardized reading tests like the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) are used to determine your child’s lexile measure. Lexile measures can be a number from 200 to 1700+. Teachers will typically suggest  that your child read books within a range. To find books that are appropriately challenging within a lexile range, search for titles here.

We’re here to help! LARL librarians are anxious to help you and your child find books they will enjoy within the reading level or range they are assigned. Visit a location near you or call your library to learn more.


While there are many leveled reading programs that seem to change from year to year, we are experts at connecting readers with books they will enjoy. Ask your librarian for assistance searching for and requesting titles.

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