My daughter’s school library has all the books color coded. She’s in turquoise. Is that good for a first grader?

Too many words on a page make reading hard.What you are probably referring to is a way of categorizing books based on their difficulty level. It is called Guided Reading Levels and was developed by Irene Fountast and Gay Su Pinnell in 1996. The 26 Guided Reading Levels use ten criteria to categorize books:

  • genre (fiction and nonfiction and their subcategories)
  • text structure (the way the text is organized, usually chronologically, but sometimes comparing and contrasting; using cause and effect; and problem and solution)
  • content (the subject matter)
  • themes and ideas (the big ideas which the author is trying to show)
  • language and literary features (dialog, literary devices and technical language, for example)
  • sentence complexity (simple sentences are usually easier; complex sentences are usually harder)
  • vocabulary (the words a child is likely to know at a certain grade)
  • words (the number and the difficulty level)
  • illustrations (graphics of all kinds)
  • book and print features (length of a page, layout, subheadings, and table of contents, for example)

This system grew out of a somewhat simpler method of categorizing reading material developed by Reading Recovery in New Zealand. The Reading Recovery method creates 20 levels and uses four criteria:

  • book and print features
  • content, themes and ideas
  • text structure, and
  • language and literary elements

Another method which I talked about in an earlier blog is the Lexile Score.

These three methods of categorizing reading difficulty in children’s texts are some of the latest methods in an effort going back  to the 1870’s. In 1923 a formula was introduced by Lively and Pressey based on word frequency and sentence length. In 1935, Gray and Leary identified 44 factors that should be considered. Within thirty years, 200 readability formulas had been proposed.

Then, for about a generation, these kinds of formulas grew out of fashion.  But with the advent of computers, new systems have been developed based on word frequencies and sentence length. The Guided Reading Levels is one of them.

Turquoise means your child is reading at an end of first grade or beginning of second grade reading level.

For more information on the Guided Reading Levels, go to For a chart comparing several methods of categorizing children’s texts, go to

What's your thinking on this topic?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s