Friday, June 28, 2013

LTR 2 RTL Part 2: Our Home Library and Guided Reading Levels

Our home library. Before we moved I had three full bookshelves in the master bedroom, two half-sized bookshelves in the boys' room (one held toys,) and shelves downstairs for homeschooling books. None of the full bookshelves survived the trip in the moving van. Two completely fell apart (they were the put together yourself sets from Walmart) and the third split in half with one half okay and the other in pieces. Of the three half-sized bookshelves we had, two survived mostly intact, one fell apart. (And when I say "fell apart" I mean there's no putting these things back together.) And because of the move, we're broke until the next tax return next year, so no replacement shelves for almost a year. (I'm not buying cheep this time around!) With 1/3 the book holding capacity that we used to have, that means all of "my" books are staying in boxes. The homeschooling books are in an armoire in the play room and the kids' books are the only ones who get any shelf space. Because I've been so sick, there are still a LOT of unpacked boxes hanging around. And some of them must be unlabeled holding kid books, because I know I have to have more than what's on the shelves now (and what's in the boys' room bedtime reading basket and in Builder Boy's bed. Yup, you read that right, my 6 year old insists on sleeping with his nine Magic School Bus books.)
Builder Boy's Bed of Books

Thursday I sat down in front of my home library to label the books with their Guided Reading Level. I got this idea from Jen at and her "Learning to Read' to 'Reading to Learn" suggestions. However, my past super pickiness when it comes to purchasing books and the fact that I'm still missing some boxes of books means that I didn't have many books on the list I was suppose to be working from. So instead of taking a book off the shelf and looking it up on the alphabetical list, I scanned the 1st and 2nd grade lists by level and when I saw the title of a book I knew I had I pulled it off the shelf and labeled it. That may not work for most people, and certainly not for someone who has more common books than I do, but it worked for me. I don't have enough books that I felt I needed to Organize My Home Library like Jen suggests; but when I acquire more books and my kids get older, I probably will. For now, what I have works for me. I do love her idea of having a "return" basket so the books are returned to their proper place and as a way to keep track of what your child is reading independently. Trouble is, my kids don't read independently. Yet. That's one of the things we're going to be working on. And now that I have at least a few books labeled with their levels, I can more confidently say to Builder Boy "I know you can read this all on your own; I really want you to try."

I was hoping that I could use the Guided Reading Levels books to further assess Builder Boy's reading level, but labeling the books left me somewhat skeptical. So far the various assessments I have used seems to place Builder Boy at a late 2nd grade/beginning 3rd grade level. But looking at the levels they placed some of the books we have, the list seems to have a higher expectation of 1st and 2nd graders than the other assessments I was using. Part of this is probably because I am very strict about phonics only because of my sight word phobia. But when I put several books next to each other that were labeled with the same level, I was even more skeptical.

Is Hop on Pop really the same level as a Franklin book? Early Bird could read Hop on Pop....eons ago! (Okay, maybe just a year or so ago.) Does that mean he can also read a whole Franklin book? He read half of Franklin's Halloween to me the other night, but there were still words in there he didn't know. Hop on Pop is all decodable phonics with short sentences, big type, and only two sentences at the most on a page. Franklin books are much smaller print with paragraphs on every other page, and a lot of more advanced/complex words. (These are level J, beginning of 2nd grade)

Then I saw that Doctor De Soto and the Magic Tree House books were considered the same level (level M, 2.75) and I really couldn't believe it! That little picture book was the same level as a chapter book? But when I sat down with Builder Boy and read it I remembered that there are a lot of technical terms in that book. That made a bit more sense, and then I wondered if the average 2nd grader really could read it on their own.

Builder Boy is currently very close to loosing a tooth, and this has made him extra emotional and getting him to read a "whole" one of these books to assess his Guided Reading Level has not happened. It's made me realize that while he has a good reading vocabulary, his fluency, expression, and stamina have been neglected. I haven't encouraged independent reading before now because I wanted to make sure he was reading all the words right and wasn't skipping. But I need to step back and encourage him to start reading on his own or I'm going to inhibit him and keep him from developing confidence in his abilities. In that sense, this assessment has probably taught me more about myself and my parenting/teaching than it has about what Builder Boy is capable of. Most of all, it's giving me a good idea of some gaps and what I need to work on.


  1. You've got a really good start there! Is there an Ikea near you? I get the clothes organization boxes and use those for my guided reading bins. But shoeboxes would work too. A cheap way to get books is at library sales, but you probably already know that. :)

  2. Before I moved and lost my free babysitting I would spend a LOT of time browsing through the thrift store bookshelves. That's why I know I HAVE to have more books somewhere...And sadly, NO Ikea in my entire state! But I have some colorful plastic baskets I got at the dollar store a while back that will probably work for organizing books.


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