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Is My Child Reading at Grade Level?


Q. My son is in second grade and he struggles with the Arthur books that my older child thought were fun and a breeze to read in first grade. I'm worried that my son is not reading at grade level, but his teacher keeps saying that he's fine and right on track. What's an independent way to measure reading ability that won't make my son feel bad about himself?


One way is to take a book that he enjoys reading, and find out the book's Lexile score. Then take one that causes him a lot of trouble, and assess its score. Although they aren't exactly tied to grade levels, Lexile scores can give parents a pretty good idea of where a child stands with reading comprehension. Parents can use these measurements as a guide in purchasing books for the child or helping him or her check out good books in the library that will be just right for his or her reading progress.


According to the Lexile website (see Homework, below), "Lexile measures are based on two well-established predictors of how difficult a text is to comprehend: semantic difficulty (word frequency) and syntactic complexity (sentence length). In order to Lexile a book or article, text is split into 125-word slices. Each slice is compared to the nearly 600-million word Lexile corpus - taken from a variety of sources and genres - and words in each sentence are counted. These calculations are put into the Lexile equation. Then, each slice's resulting Lexile measure is applied to the Rasch psychometric model to determine the Lexile measure for the entire text."


The Arthur books, "Arthur and the Recess Rookie" (370L), "Arthur Goes to Camp" (380L) and "Arthur, Clean Your Room!" (370L) fall within the Lexile range of a typical second grader. These books have shorter sentences and words appear frequently. Conversely, look at the scores of "Little Women" (1300L) and "Don Quixote" (1410L), indicating that they contain longer sentences and more complex words.


Once you have an idea of your child's Lexile measure, you can search the Lexile Book Database to find books that are similar to the student's reading level. You can search by title or author, Lexile range or keywords, or ISBN. See:


Homework: See the FAQ's and other resources on


By Susan Darst Williams Ages & Stages 139 2008***

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