Thursday, February 7, 2013

Independent Reading

I strive for simplicity and efficiency in my classroom and instruction!  I wanted to share my “Just Right Library” that I have in my classroom and how I have adapted it for different grade levels. 

We know that there are 3 levels of books for children:



Accuracy Percentage

Independent Level

The level at which a child can read easily for pleasure reading, with limiting decoding struggles. 95% accuracy

Instructional Level

The level at which a child needs some adult support and skill instruction to read and comprehend the text. 90% accuracy

Frustration Level

The level at which a child struggles with a text.  Accuracy and meaning are breaking down. Less than 90% accuracy

How Can I Set Up and Maintain a Leveled Library?

My “Just Right Library” is a section of my classroom library that contains books that are leveled.  My district levels books by DRA levels, so my JR Library is arranged by Fountas and Pinnell levels.  Each basket contains books at the level indicated on the container.  My student groups each have a color (but any system of naming a group could be used) and I place colored dots on the baskets that are at their independent level.  For example, if I am teaching red group at level E, I put red garage sale dots on the C and D baskets.


Where Do I Get Books?

  • Library Sales – the bag sales are especially wonderful!
  • Garage Sales
  • Thrift Stores
  • The Teacher Free Pile – (You know, that enormous pile of items purged from classrooms at the end/beginning of the school year!)
  • Scholastic Bonus Points
  • Donations – Parents will often donate books their children are no longer interested in.

How Do Students Choose Books?

Every Monday, my students go book shopping and choose 5 “just Right” books for their book boxes.  They also choose 2 books that are not leveled from our general classroom library.  These books typically lasted my first graders the entire week because they read and reread the books. 

For my third graders, I ask my students to choose 1-2 chapter books and 5 picture books or magazines, two of which must be from the non-fiction section. Again, this typically lasts the students a week, but I also encourage them to monitor their own needs and adjust their choices if they need additional or longer texts.


I use magazine files as my Book Boxes.  IKEA has very reasonable choices.  I bought my from a few different educational companies, such as Lakeshore.  They last 2-3 years with good care.

How Do I Level My Books?

Check out these links to determine the levels of the books in your collection.  Books from specific educational publisher can often be looked up on the Publisher site, where the levels may be stated. After some experience with leveling, it becomes easier to determine levels of books by looking closely at them.  Use your best judgment as an educator if you are unable to find the level from a resource.


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Beaverton School District Leveled Book Database

This site contains more books that are purchased from education companies than other leveling sites.

The Lexile Analyzer, created by MetaMetrics, analyzes text to determine the Lexile level. You must register as an educator, then you can type in or upload a scanned txt document and it will provide the lexile level.  You use a lexile chart on the site to get a grade level equivalent.

This is a great job for parent volunteers.  I created a basket of books to be leveled and provided my volunteers with the links.  It is also one of those tasks that is better done over time.  Spend 15 minutes a week leveling books and you will soon have a leveled library!

How Can I Determine the Correct Levels for My Students?

Reading Level Correlation Chart Link


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