I blogged before about what it means to be an advanced reader, and how the reading level test your child takes can mean different things. But how are reading levels for books calculated? My kid’s school uses a program called Accelerated Reader, which assigns a reading level and reading points to the hundreds of thousands of books in their database. Once a child has read the book, they take a computerized test on their comprehension of the vocabulary and content of the book. AR uses the ATOS Readability Formula to assign reading levels, which uses grade-level vocabulary lists and data from actual student reading evaluations. This program is great for giving you an instant snapshot of a book’s reading level.
For any given text block, Word will give you a “reading level” that is based on vocabulary, but it doesn’t have the same data-based evaluation as ATOS (but nevertheless is helpful to writers with works-in-progress, such as myself!). AR also offers an option for teachers and writers to submit a section of text, like from a magazine or website, or an entire book, and have the reading level evaluated.
In addition to reading level, the Accelerated Reader site has a brief summary of book plots, and a measure of Interest Level (Lower Grades (LG), Middle Grade (MG), and Upper Grades(UG)). Interest Level can be used as a general estimate of age appropriateness, but the final decision on whether a book is right for your child should always be in the hands of the parent. Ink Spells will talk more about age appropriateness, ratings and content guides in blogs-to-come!
I’ve put a link to Accelerated Reader on the blog because it is a handy reference tool. Check it out!