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Guide to Kids' Reading Levels

BY: | 6.24.2016 |

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 The following recommendations are approximate guidelines only. Children develop at their own pace, and, as long as the subject matter is suitable, it’s OK if they feel more comfortable reading above or below the recommended level.

Age Range How Kids Read What to Look For What to Stay Away From
1–6 months

Newborns can distinguish primary hues, respond to black and white, and, by four months, can see details. 

While they're content just listening to familiar voices, books with simple rhyming text are recommended because of the soothing, reliable rhythm. 

 

Books with contrasting or simple images; stories with basic rhyming text

Thick, heavy books that are difficult for little hands to grasp; books with more than five pages; delicate books that will fall apart easily

7–12 months

Babies will begin participating more actively in reading time by chewing on books, pointing, and babbling. They'll also begin to test out cause and effect, which is why activity books are recommended.

Activity books with textures, flaps, and pop-ups; sturdy board books with rounded edges that can be tossed, pulled, and chewed

Thick, heavy books that are difficult for little hands to grasp; books with more than five pages; delicate books that will fall apart easily

1–3 years

Children are starting to talk and interact more. Reading with them is a good way to expand their vocabularies, teach them about everyday objects, and encourage a love of reading.

Picture books with more elaborate stories and illustrations than board books; books designed to teach numbers, letters, colors, and shapes

Books with more than 15 pages; stories with hard-to-recognize images

4–5 years

Most kids can recall familiar words and phrases in their favorite books and recognize and write letters and numbers.

Picture books and books with simple sentences and plots; decodable books that encourage kids to put words together and read on their own

Text-heavy books
5–7 years

Many children are able to recognize commonly spelled one- and two-syllable words. They can identify the main points in books, as well as different characters' points of view.

Easy-reader books with clear, simple plots, only a few sentences per page, and short, easy-to-digest chapters; picture storybooks that focus on text but still have engaging illustrations

Books with more than five sentences per page and chapters longer than a few pages; books with complex vocabularies or plots

8–10 years

Kids advance from easy-reader books to chapter books. By the time they’re 10, many children can describe cause and effect, summarize books, and state the main theme. 

Motivate kids to read by giving them books related to their interests and personalities.

Chapter books with more complex sentences and plots than easy-reader books; books related to kids' interests and personalities

Books with paragraphs longer than four or five sentences

11–12 years

Pre-teens can understand and cope with a wide variety of issues. Letting them choose their own books is a good way to encourage reading.

Middle-grade novels (tween or pre-teen books) with longer chapters and more complex plots

Pushing teens and pre-teens to read certain books can often be detrimental to their reading enjoyment. Let them discover and choose the books and genres they read.

13+ years

Teenagers can handle more sophisticated books and may choose to read younger titles or adult books. 

They're also more likely to switch between fiction and non-fiction novels and tend to look for stories that are relatable.

Young-adult novels that have more complex, sophisticated plots and vocabularies than middle-grade novels; coming-of-age stories or novels with relatable plots

Pushing teens and pre-teens to read certain books can often be detrimental to their reading enjoyment. Let them discover and choose the books and genres they read.



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