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How to Determine My Child’s Reading Level?

Has your child been struggling with reading assignments lately? Or maybe, she becomes grumpy if you buy her a new storybook. Such scenarios might be the indications that your child’s reading level is not up to the mark!

Are you getting scared?

Don’t be!

It’s only normal for a child struggling to read in the early years. After all, it takes years to become a fluent reader.

On the contrary, you should be happy!


Because now you can work on determining your child’s reading level and try to improve that.

You might be wondering if there’s any proven way of determining a child’s reading level. Yes, there are many assessment tools to help you in such cases. So, let’s try to find out how to assess a child’s reading level and how to help your child read at the grade level.

Let’s begin!

Determining A Child’s Reading Level: The Three-Way Approach

The Reading skill is a combination of multiple skills that stands upon three separate literacy skills

  1. Decoding words (ability to sound out the word)
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Comprehension

You can call these three skills to be the pillars of reading skills. So, if you are wondering, “How do I assess my child’s reading level?”, you need to focus on all of these pillars separately.

That’s why I love to call it the three-way approach.

Of course, there’re many different reading assessments developed by child psychologists and experts. You can find the list in the later section.

Step 1: Decoding Words with San Diego Quick Assessment

In the first stage, a child will break words into chunks, and combine them again to sound out the word. She’ll have to repeat the same process over and over again to decode a complete sentence.  

Some experts believe that this is the most important stage for reading. Once a child masters the decoding skill, she can move on to the next stage – vocabulary accumulation.

So, how to test a child’s reading level or decoding skills?

The most popular choice is the San Diego Quick Assessment. It’s one of the free reading assessment tests to determine a child’s reading level. This individual testing method takes only 10 minutes to identify the word recognition level suitable for K-11.

How does it work?

The complete list consists of 13 sub-lists of 10 words. Each of these sub-lists is assigned to a grade level.

First, you would begin with a sub-list 2-3 stages below your child’s grade level. For instance, if your child is in the third grade, you should begin the test at the primer or first grade.

Now, ask your child to read the words aloud in that list. You’ll NOT give her more than five seconds to read the words. If she fails to read a word within five seconds, ask her to move on to the next word in the list.

While she’s reading the words, take a note of the progress. If misreads a word or fails to read it properly, mark that word.

Continue until she makes three or more mistakes in a graded list.

Finally, calculate the results –

Number of MistakesReading Level
0-1 MistakeIndependent Level
2 MistakesInstructional Level
3+ MistakesFrustration Level

The last grade level she manages to read at 80% success rate (eight words per list), is her actual reading level.

You should also note that your child doesn’t have to understand the meaning of the words. You just need to check if she can pronounce the words correctly.    

Step 2: Assessment of Vocabulary Collection

If your child faces way too many unknown words, she can’t comprehend the meaning of the text properly. So, she needs to accumulate a certain vocabulary level to read.

Now, we’d test the vocabulary level of your child.

To do so, you’d need some texts from books below your child’s current grade. Suppose, your child is in the third grade, pick a text from a first-grade book.

Now, ask your child to read the texts and highlight any word that she doesn’t know the meaning of. She should be able to understand the meaning of at least 90% of the words.

Apart from this simple test, you can take help from different online sources. How to test child’s reading level online?

This list should help you out –

  1. British Council Vocabulary Tester
  2. SpellQuiz Vocabulary Tester
  3. Vocabulary Tester
  4. Test Your Vocabulary
  5. BabyLex

Step 3: Comprehension Assessment

There’s a difference between simply reading a text/passage and completely understanding the meaning of it. To have a strong reading skill, one must possess a complementing comprehensive skill.

Here’s how you can do it easily.

Pick a text, any text from her age-suitable book. Now, ask her to read the text. Afterwards, ask her to tell the meaning/summary of the passage in her own way.

With a few trials, you can have a general idea of her comprehension assessment skill. Especially, if you are looking for an answer to how to test your child’s reading level at home.

If you want a guided solution, you can try these options –


This tool tries to assess the reading level of a child using various parameters. After a seven-stage instruction, they try to determine your child’s reading level.


This website comes with a number of placement tests to determine the reading level.

English Club

It’s a comprehension test that tries to determine the reading comprehension level just within 15 minutes. There is a total of 20 questions. The more correct answers she can give within the 15-minute timer, the higher her reading score will be.

Expert Tips on How to Get Your Child to Read on Grade Level

Now that you know how to test your child’s reading level, ask yourself, what grade level does my child read at?

If her child reading level matches her grade level, there’ nothing to worry about. It’s possible that she did badly in the reading assessment tests because she didn’t pay enough attention or wanted to do something else at that time.

It’s natural!

On the other hand, you might feel concerned thinking, “my child is not reading at grade level!”

There’re some simple tips that you can follow –

  • Lower the toughness level! Simply offer the reading materials that she can read all on her own. It’ll boost her confidence.
  • Motivate her!
  • Try playing different word games. It’ll help them get accustomed to English words.
  • Read her books. Listening strengthens reading skills as well.
  • Let her choose the books she wants to read.
  • Take her to bookstore and libraries.
  • Don’t compare her to her peer. It might affect her negatively.

The main idea is to take baby steps towards success and taking things lightly. If your child feels that you’re frustrated with her current reading skill, she might feel too much pressure.

Get your free copy of the Ebook:

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Please note that these techniques are not intended to replace professional care and are for entertainment purposes only.

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