Reading Levels

Q. Is there a reliable source for the suggested reading level of a novel?  I'm a teacher who requires independent reading, but the novels my students bring me sometimes look "too young" for the grade I teach.  I cannot always find information on what reading level the novel was intended to entertain.

A. Determining the age-appropriateness of a book (or other media format) is complex and factors in vocabulary used and writing style, as well as thematic content and plot elements.  For current materials, the grade level a book is intended for is suggested by the publisher.  The information may appear on the book jacket or back cover of a paperbound.  Additionally, it is sent along with the book to reviewers, so that the information may be included in reviews, both those online and those in published formats, as from ALA’s Booklist, and others

The American Library Association compiles many different reading lists for various age groups--such as the forthcoming listing from Booklist, pictured, especially for children and teens, most of which can be found online via our Recommended Reading Fact Sheet.  Depending on the list, the books may be divided by age group, or general term—younger, middle school, etc.

There are also systems for leveling maintained by agencies external to ALA, some proprietary.  In some cases, a reading level score may be reported to students on the basis of standardized test results, allowing for selection of independent reading at that level.

Reading levels and ranges are merely suggestions.  Individual reading interests and maturity levels are also factors.  There are numerous guides to books for children and young adults, with more published as the public's reading interests change or to highlight a particular genre; we have listed some of these on a wiki page, as we learn of them, though as we are not a public library, we do not include them in our collection.  Finally, as is the case with readers’ advisory work in general, the best resource for guidance is the local librarian who knows the collection and has awareness of “read-alikes” and the materials popular with students of the same age.



When I was in 6th grade, back in the early 1960’s, our teacher had a contest for reading the Newbery Award winners. After reading a Newbery book you took a short written quiz, 10 multiple choice questions, about the book. If you had 7 or more correct you received a star for that book on a large chart in the back of the classroom. At the end of the year, the top readers received a prize. This teacher moved to 7th grade with us and did the same thing with Newbery Honor books. As a result I read many fine, awarding winning books that I enjoyed and probably would not have picked up otherwise. This teacher also read aloud to us daily, from Newbery winners. I have great memories of listening to A Wrinkle in Time. I know this does not answer your question but I couldn’t resist sharing this idea for independent reading.