November Question #1

Katharine Apel
Garvey School District (13 sites)
Supervisor GATE/Media/Library

We have some full-day kindergarten teachers that would like to have more “real” books for the beginning readers. Do you have samples of books or recommendations of levels we could purchase for them? I am thinking sets of books for some guided practice, possibly.

Thanks for your help,

Answer #1

Dear Kathy,

I think you would just love the kindergarten Leveled Readers collection. They are a wonderful set of leveled readers designed specifically for kindergarten and are all levels A, B and a few C. Get a look at them and let me know what you think.


November Question #2

1st Grade

We are in the process of looking for materials/programs to enhance our balanced literacy approach. I was impressed with the leveled readers from HM. However, I am wondering the best approach for our students and teachers - just the Leveled Readers to utilize within guided reading or the entire program to tie all components together. Can you comment on the issue?

Thank you.

Answer #2

Dear Patty,

Leveled Readers will work well with a core program or as a program in itself. If you use an anthology you can use the selections for read aloud or shared reading or even small discussion groups after you read the stories aloud. The Leveled Readers are best used to differentiate instruction. You will want to form small groups for instructional reading. I am pleased you were impressed with the Leveled Readers as they are a wonderful set of books. You will also find the social studies and science collections are wonderful.

Best to you in your work,

November Question #3

Yvonne Demsky
1st grade

I am interested in my daughter formulating sentences in Spanish. This was her native language until age 3, when her school teacher asked me to read and speak to her only in English because she was so far behind in Pre-school. (The teacher couldn't really communicate with her.) She stopped speaking Spanish and her brain is wired for English. She understands some of what I say, but does not formulate Spanish sentences correctly (though she tells me that she really wants to speak Spanish- and I read her a Spanish book every night.) In any case, should she try to repeat sentences from the guided readers starting at “below age level” then gradually ask her to repeat sentences with “on age level” then “above age level?” What do you suggest?

Yvonne Demsky

Answer #3

Dear Yvonne,

Children do learn new language structures through reading so it is a good idea for her to repeat a structure that is new before she attempts to read it. The levels do give you a good starting point because the language structures on the lower levels will be easier.

Best to you and your daughter,

November Question #4

Shelly Shaver
Weller Elementary
Literacy Coach


I am finishing my masters in reading this semester. As a part of preparation for our comprehensive exam, we are to study a leader in the field. I chose you because my philosophy of teaching reading was changed after I read your book, Guided Reading about 10years ago. It prompted me to start guided reading in my classroom and to study it.

If you have time, could you possibly share your philosophy on reading and some of your proudest contributions to the field of reading.

Shelly Shaver
Literacy Coach, Weller Elementary
Springfield, Missouri

Answer #4

Dear Shelly,

I believe it is important for children who are learning how to read to process a variety of texts for different purposes. That means they should hear wonderful books read aloud, share in the reading of texts that are little beyond what they can read for themselves, read many books that are easy for them and also participate small groups in guided reading lessons. The books used in the guided reading lessons are at their instructional level so they can learn how to process a text that is not too easy and not too hard, but offers a little new learning. The goal is to help children build effective processing systems on texts that get a little more challenging over time. Effective processing means that the children have strong word analysis skills as well as good understanding and fluency at the level.

I am pleased to have called more attention to the role texts play in the teaching of reading and the importance of teaching children at an instructional level with high quality books. I hope through our work teachers have learned more about how to look at books and teach effectively with them, varying their decisions based on their observations of childrenŐs reading behaviors.

Best to you in your program,

October Question #1

Susan Holder
Mayfield Elementary
Reading Teacher, K–6

Hello Irene,

How do writers of educational materials become professionally trained to level books based on your method? Your method seems to be based on the experience and judgment of the person doing the leveling, with your book explanation used as a guideline for the process. Is this a correct assumption? If not, please clarify.

Thank you,
Susan H.

Answer #1


We have trained teams of teachers who worked with us for several years and participate on leveling teams. We engage in a leveling process with the teams, analyzing the characteristics of each book. Then we field test the books with children and compare data across regions. This is not for the purpose of writing books, but for looking at them in terms of the supports and challenges they provide readers.

Hope this helps,

October Question #2

Jennifer Urbaez
Gladys Noon Spellman Elementary
Fifth Grade Teacher

Hi Irene,

Where can I find quizzes for the Leveled Readers?

Answer #2

Dear Jennifer,

I do not know of any quizzes for the Leveled Readers, although you will find questions and activities in the teacher resource material. In addition, the inside back cover of each book contains discussion questions.


May Question #1

Michelle Wirth
Mosinee Elementary
Third-Grade Teacher

I have some confusion regarding the guided reading leveling. Please educate me. The levels have changed. Grade 1 is considered A—M. Grade 2 is D—P, and Grade 3 is K—S. What is Kindergarten? How do you explain to a family the levels (reading levels are on our report card)? For instance, their first-grader is at level K and their third-grade child is at level O. Level O could mean reading at second-grade level, third-grade level, or fourth-grade level. Which is it? The overlap is going to be a nightmare for parents. Then take their first-grader, who is reading at level K. Does this mean she is reading at a beginning third-grade level?

Answer #1

Dear Michelle,

I suggest you look at the chart in the Leveled Readers Handbook, available through Houghton Mifflin, for a detailed explanation of levels and expectations for various grades. The level you want to identify as the on-grade level will, of course, vary by the time of the year. You would want to get Kindergarten children reading at about level B or C by the end of the year. You would want to get Grade 1 students reading at level I or J, Grade 2 students at level L or M, and Grade 3 students at level O or P.

I would not suggest that you report letter levels to parents, but rather report that the child is reading at expected grade level for that time of the year, or below or beyond expected grade level.

Best to you in your work,

April Question

Peggy Kalal
Paddock Road Elementary
Reading Specialist/Co-Chair Language Department

We are strongly considering using the Houghton Mifflin Leveled Readers for district-wide adoption. We are conducting a meeting where 3–6 grade teachers will be previewing the leveled readers. We are going to have the teachers fill out a criteria sheet, which would consist of rating certain criteria/features of the leveled readers. Do you have a set criteria that we could use to help our teachers look for these features, and rate the criteria/features, in the leveled readers? We want our teachers to be able to assess the readers in detail, rather than with just an overall “good/bad” type rating.


Dear Peggy,

I suggest that you look at the interest level of the content for the age group, the quality of the writing and the art, the variety of genres offered (e.g., historical fiction, biography, and informational topics), the variety of nonfiction (science and social studies) titles available, the accuracy of the leveling, and the quality and appropriateness of the teacher support materials.

Be sure to look at all the leveled readers. You will also want to look at the independent readers for social studies and science, as well as the nonfiction collection.

Best to you in your work,

March Question

Susan Gravel
Village School
K–6 Language Arts Coordinator
Marblehead, MA

Dr. Fountas,

Good afternoon, Irene,
In our district, we have implemented formative assessments for students in grades 4–8. The emphasis is on finding a child's Lexile level. We also administer the DRA to children in grades K–6 and use Guided Reading levels to guide instruction. Is there a resource that correlates the Guided Reading levels with the Lexile levels?

Thank you, in advance, for your reply. Your professional development work with educators is invaluable.
Sue Gravel


Dear Sue,

Our text levels are based on a set of text characteristics that are different from Lexiles, so you will not find a correlation. I think you will find that Lexiles are a mathematical formula that addresses word and sentence length. Our leveling system is more complex.


January Question

Lillian Nimis
Leaside Children's House

Dr. Fountas,

I am a new teacher and I would like to know the best way to use Leveled Readers with my kindergarten class or 4- and 5-year-olds. Do you believe all kindergarten classes should use leveled books?

I look forward to hearing from you.


Dear Lillian,

Thank you for your question, as it is an important one. When you use shared reading with your kindergarten children, they learn to attend to print. They notice letters and words and learn how to read from left to right and return to a new line. This is an important foundation for beginning to read Level A books. I suggest that you start working with three children at a time in guided reading, beginning about halfway through the kindergarten year, and try to get all the children reading Level B or C books by the end of the year.

Good luck!