Starting in Kindergarten, teacher may send your child home with a book bag containing one or more leveled books for practice. Leveled books are intended for beginning and struggling readers and are used for specific instructional purposes. Leveled collections have an increasing number of high frequency words, and focus on gradually building fluency skills and confidence. Leveled books, “expand at increasing levels of difficulty…attract children’s interest and make them want to read (Fountas and Pinnell, 1999).“
Leveled readers make up one component of a comprehensive reading program that should include a wide array of reading materials, including: signs, picture books, magazines, posters, comic books, graphic novels, wordless picture books, online content, songs, poetry, letters, recipes, ingredients, instructions, etc.
Usually, Take-Home books have high-frequency words, content vocabulary, text features, or reading strategies that your child has been working on at school. The teacher wants the child to practice outside school and also may expect a follow-up assignment or a response to the reading.
The level of the Take-Home book is generally determined by the teacher’s assessment of your child’s literacy level, eg, Marie Clay Observation Survey, Running Record, Diagnostic Reading Assessment (DRA), or a similar tool.
The teacher may include instructions for the family on how to support the child’s reading. (If the child’s teacher does not have a take-home book program, nor provides instructions for reading at home, you can still support the beginner or struggling reader by following the steps below).
A FEW EXAMPLES OF LEVELED TAKE-HOME BOOK SETS
PROFESSIONAL COLLECTIONS FOR EDUCATORS
- Fountas & Pinnell LLI
- Sails & Mainsails
- PM Readers
- Dragonfly Readers
- National Geographic
- Literacy Place
- Everyday Book Box
- Fast Track
Start by checking inside the back or front cover of the Take-Home book for the reading level. Each publisher has its own method of identifying the level; some sets may identify only the number in the series, others identify the DRA level. See below for a chart that shows the DRA level and the corresponding number or letter of some popular leveled reader sets.
Check inside the front or back cover. Leveled readers for professional use may have:
- a glossary,
- list of sight words in the book
- list of content vocabulary in the book
- phonological patterns
- the big ideas
- guiding questions
- a focus or a reading strategy
If the teacher has not provided you with instructions, here are some general guidelines.
- If possible, find a quiet place to work with your child, away from other family members and distractions.
- Turn off your phone.
- Take a minute to breathe and relax into a positive, super-patient mindset.
- It is important to remember that you are the parent/guardian not the child’s teacher, (even if you are a professional educator) so it’s advisable not to take on a formal or “teachery tone.”
- Keep any reading sessions with your child light and stress free.
- This should be an enjoyable one-on-one time with your child.
- Keep a note pad beside you and write down errors that your child makes during the read.
- Encourage and give short prompts or the word, if the child gets stuck.
- Praise the effort once the read is finished
- Show any annoyance, impatience by tone of voice or body language before, during or after the read
- Comment or interrupt the child while she is reading
- Point out, or correct errors during the read (see above)
- Tell the child “sound it out” if she gets stuck.
BEFORE THE READ
Review with your child the vocabulary listed on the back cover – write out the words, if necessary on a separate sheet of paper and check that your child can read and understand those words – reteach or prompt as required
- Talk about the cover of the book and title and ask your child to predict what the book is about
- Picture walk – flip through the pages quickly and ask your child to describe what is happening in the pictures
- Encourage directionality and voice-print matching, by having your child point to each word as she reads
- Remind her that when she comes to a word she does not know, guess with clues from the picture and keep reading
DURING THE READ
- Occasionally prompt or give the word if she stops or becomes frustrated (if this happens every second word the book is too difficult)
- Make a note of problem words on your notepad
AFTER THE READ
- Praise the effort once the read is finished
- Talk about the story – what did she learn, does the story remind her of anything, make connections to her experiences, other stories, shows or movies, etc.
- Re-teach words she stumbled on during the read
- Have the child complete work the teacher has assigned – eg draw a picture and label, or write captions, words or sentences to describe what is happening in the picture.
WHEN THERE IS NO TAKE-HOME BOOK PROGRAM
If your child is a beginning or struggling reader, and her teacher does not have a Take-Home book program, and books that you have bought or borrowed from the library have none of this information, then you will need to do a little more work.
Use the attached Dolch or Fry lists per grade to identify what words your child can read. If the books you have bought or borrowed do not have a vocabulary list on the inside of the back or front cover, you will first need to read and extract from the book the vocabulary, or sight words that need to be pre-taught so that your child can be successful as they read. Once you have done this, follow the guidelines listed above.
GUIDELINES FOR LEVELED BOOKS (Fountas & Pinnell, p.23):
“The best books to support developing literacy:
- Have natural and literary language patterns with some predictability but not a singsong repetitious pattern
- Include an increasing number of high-frequency words
- Have some literary merit
- Are interesting and engaging for children
- Integrate an opportunity to notice and use spelling patterns within a quality text.”
Beers, Kylene. (2003). When Kids Can’t Read What Teachers Can Do. Heinemann. Portsmouth, NH.
Fountas, Irene & Gay Su Pinell. (1999). Matching Books to Readers: Using Leveled Books in Guided Reading, K-3. Heinemann. Portsmouth, NH.