family reading Archives - Lexercise

What Does Reading on Grade Level Mean?

child reading a grade level book at homeEvery week, Lexercise therapists talk with parents who are concerned that their child is reading “below grade level.” In most cases, the child’s teacher has told the parents that the child struggles to keep up. Even when parents observe their child’s reading difficulties, they may not understand the meaning of grade level reading or what can be done to help the child improve.

Is Reading at Grade Level Important?

Reading is a complex activity; it is not a single thing. Consider the differences in reading: 

  • a food ingredients label
  • a pharmacy insert
  • a bus schedule
  • a ballot initiative
  • an owner’s manual for a car or appliance
  • an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) publication
  • a workplace policy manual
  • a news article
  • an opinion article
  • a poem
  • a book 

Further, within each of these examples, the difficulty level can vary widely. Just as some books are more complex than others, some food labels are more complex than others. 

Attempts to capture reading difficulty levels have typically focused on passages or books. Over the years, different readability formulas have been developed to index the difficulty level of passages. These formulas count elements like word length (number of syllables, number of letters), word frequency, and sentence length. But, even with all the diligent counting, there is no agreed-upon standard for indexing the difficulty of reading a written passage.

Reading on Grade Level: What Does it Mean?

Grade level reading is defined as the average passage difficulty level (as measured by one of the many readability formulas) that most students at a specific grade level can read with understanding. Again: grade level reading is what most students at a grade level can read. If this definition seems circular, it is! 

Another big problem with using “grade level” as a meaningful measure of reading is that there is huge overlap across grades in the difficulty level of passages that students can read and understand. 

For example, see the graph below. The purple area under the first/left curve represents the reading scores of average 3rd graders and the teal area under the second/right curve represents the reading scores of average 5th graders. The overlapped area in the middle shows that an average 3rd grader and an average 5th grader could have the same score! 

graphic showing how children from different grades can be on the same reading level

We are used to thinking about grade level reading as a single number, such as, “My child is reading at a 3rd-grade level.” But it would be more accurate to think of reading level as a range. For example:

  • Early elementary (grades K-3) reading level
  • Late elementary (grades 4-5) reading level
  • Middle school (grades 6-8) reading level
  • Early secondary (grades 9-10) reading level
  • Late secondary (grades 11-12) reading level

In a future post, we will explore an alternative to grade level that might be a more meaningful way to profile reading skills. Subscribe to our blog below so that you don’t miss out!

If your child is a struggling reader or you have been told your child is reading below grade level, Lexercise can help. Lexercise identifies and treats dyslexia and other learning difficulties with online reading, writing, and spelling therapy. Children who complete the Lexercise program improve 3 grade levels on average! Learn more on the Lexercise website, or contact us today.

Reading Togetherness

image of book with a heart shaped bow and a christmas tree behind

The holidays are upon us. The days and nights are chilly. It’s family time. And what better way to share these winter hours than reading aloud together?

As you probably know, I am a big advocate of reading aloud and have written about it on numerous occasions. I’ve praised the work of Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook (now in its eighth edition!), who has done so much to encourage young readers.  More recently, Natalie Wexler, author of The Knowledge Gap, has written about the impact that building vocabulary and knowledge has on academic success.

Now a study out of The Ohio State University pegs the value of reading aloud down with a dazzling number: “Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to.”  

Reading aloud to a child and continuing to read aloud even after they can read instills knowledge, expands vocabulary, and supports critical thinking. It’s hard to imagine a better gift!

I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season, and I hope you will take these words to heart and spend some time together each day reading aloud.

Happy Holidays!

Sandie Barrie Blackley

How to help kids develop a life-long passion for reading

pile of booksAs summer is approaching, now is a great time to think of how you can get your child engaged in reading during summer break. Some of the most powerful and influential time you can spend with your child is reading aloud with them, and summer road trips are the perfect times to captivate your child with the magic of reading.

Long car rides to summer vacation spots can be an extremely valuable time for “reading aloud” to your child via books on tape.  (Turning around and reading to children in the back seat can be both challenging and uncomfortable!)

In the weeks leading up to summer, start thinking ahead about getting some human-read books on tape. Your local library will likely have a section dedicated to this genre of books. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your summer vacation reading:

  • In choosing what books you plan to listen to, involve your child. If your child is “invested” in the book, he or she will be more attentive from the beginning.
  • But also consider something that will appeal to the whole family, as I highly encourage this to be an interactive, full-family activity.
  • Try finding a book that has a plot that is discussable and thought-provoking.
  • While listening in the car, take time to stop the recording and discuss it, perhaps after every chapter. This will help keep your child engaged and excited for the next chapter!

But, also remember that summer offers more reading opportunities than simply car rides! Summer means longer evenings, more light, and a chance to use those precious summer evenings to accomplish something magical. Set up some family rules for keeping the TV off and the books open. Using the last hour of the day as family read-aloud time is a great idea. Make this your sacred time to cuddle up and enjoy the wonders of reading.

In your preparation for summer reading, I also suggest reading Jim Trelease’s classic, The Read-Aloud Handbook. It exposes the benefits and importance of reading aloud to children and offers proven techniques and strategies for helping children discover the pleasures of reading. Not to mention, the last part of the Read-Aloud Handbook is an anthology of books that are powerful for reading aloud.

For more on reading aloud, see my recent post on shared inquiry.

Lexercise’s online services for struggling readers, writers, and spellers are a motivating blend of high-touch and high-tech. If you have questions or to learn more contact me at or 1-919-747-4557.

Dyslexia and Reading: National Reading Day

books for children with dyslexiaJanuary 23 is National Reading Day, so I thought I would offer a few resources and suggestions for you and your struggling reader.

Here are links to some wonderful places to look for appropriate book titles:

U.K. publisher Barrington Stoke offers an extensive list of books targeted to the dyslexic reader.

Capstone Press publishes non-fiction books for beginning, struggling, and reluctant readers, including graphic novels.

Here is Sally Gardner’s top-ten list of print and audio titles suitable for kids with dyslexia.

The International Literacy Association each year invites elementary-age school children and young adults, grades 7-12, to select their favorite books. Here’s the link to their more recent lists.

Learning Ally offers some 75,000 audiobook titles for all ages and all reading levels, including fiction, non-fiction, and curriculum texts.

Saddleback Educational Publishing targets its catalog to struggling learners and their list includes fiction, history, sci-fi, classics, poetry, reference, and more.

See a list of Young People’s books focusing on dyslexia from the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity.

As you may know, I am a huge fan of reading aloud — not just for parents and children, but for families, friends, couples, and groups of every age! But reading aloud has special benefits for children with dyslexia. It allows them to focus on words, sounds, and meaning together and sets the stage for shared inquiry.

But what will you read? Let your child be part of the selection process. Perhaps the most important step in developing a reader-for-life is to look for books on a topic that interests your child. (Don’t forget to look at non-fiction titles!) Look for rich vocabulary and great illustrations that appeal to your child’s social and intellectual development, not just his or her reading skills.

The Importance of Reading Aloud

When you read aloud with your child, talk about the book’s words, pictures, characters, and storyline. Ask questions about what’s happening in the story and encourage your child to ask about words and meanings and to speculate on what might happen further along in the book. Combine books and audio: get the same book in printed and audio format; spend time reading together and then let your child listen to the story before picking up where you left off. For more on reading aloud, see my recent post on shared inquiry.

Lexercise’s online services for struggling readers, writers, and spellers are a motivating blend of high-touch and high-tech. If you have questions or to learn more contact us at or 1-919-747-4557.

Reading Aloud with Your Child: Making the Most of Every Word

reading aloud with your childIf you read my posts with any regularity, my passion for reading aloud will come as no surprise to you. Whether or not your child struggles to read, write or spell, whether or not your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia or another language-processing disorder, reading aloud together builds closeness, improves reading skills and comprehension, and can instill a lifelong love of books.

Many parents get into the habit of reading aloud just until their child falls asleep. While this is certainly a special kind of family intimacy, the practice of reading out loud together can be expanded enormously through what the reading experts at the Great Books Foundation call Shared Inquiry.


What is Shared Inquiry?

Through discussion and problem solving, Shared Inquiry turns the simple reading of a book into “a teaching and learning environment, and a way for individuals to achieve a more thorough understanding of a text as readers search for answers to fundamental questions…”

From the earliest age, whatever their reading level, instead of being passive listeners, children can start to develop critical thinking skills. The role of the parent is not to give answers, but to ask thoughtful questions and encourage the child to show how he or she reached the answer. Here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Involve your child in book selection. If your child is “invested” in the book, he or she will be more attentive from the beginning.
  • Before you start reading, reduce distractions by turning off televisions, phones, and other electronic devices and choosing a quiet spot with good reading light.
  • Look at and encourage your child to talk about the cover of the book what’s on it and what it might suggest about the story you’re about to read.
  • As you read, pause and ask your child thought-provoking questions about the story, including what might happen next. Ask your child to show evidence for his or her answers.
  • Talk about language and words and encourage your child to ask about difficult words. Does your child have favorite words from this story? Why? What’s special about those words?
  • As you continue reading, talk about your child’s answers to earlier questions. What happened? Was it a surprise?
  • At the conclusion of the book, encourage your child to talk about the ending, about how the story or the characters might continue, and what he or she learned, disliked, or liked best.

The idea of Shared Inquiry is not for your child to parrot back the “right answers,” but to use the text as a jumping-off place to search out meaning, interpret, stir the imagination and improve comprehension.

To learn more about Shared Inquiry, visit the Great Books Foundation website, where you’ll also find their catalog. For additional information on reading aloud with your child, browse among the many resources on the website of Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook. Happy reading!

Lexercise’s online, research-based services help struggling readers, writers, and spellers — no matter where they live! Please take a look at our Online Dyslexia Testing and Treatment page or contact me directly at or 1-919-747-4557.