Why is it so difficult to find books that kindergarten students can actually read? When school starts up in the fall, I always tell my classroom parents at curriculum night that the best source of age-appropriate reading material is Scholastic Book Orders. Not only does Scholastic Reading Club offer the best prices around, but they are often the only place I can find books for my emergent readers. You know what I mean: the kind of books with big print, only 1 sentence on each page, and lots of repetition.
I recently cashed in my bonus points to purchase some new leveled reading materials for my classroom. I ordered my go-to favorite books and took a chance on some new series. I know how disappointing it can be to order books that you think will be a perfect fit for your students, only to realize that they are too difficult, have too small of print or are just plain not interesting enough for kids to read. I also know that extra cash (or bonus points) for classroom books is a valuable commodity that teachers do not like to waste.
Take a peek at some of new titles I added to my classroom library. I took plenty of photos to give you an inside peek so you can make an informed decision about whether or not these titles are a good fit for your students.
This blog post was not sponsored in any way. Nor does it contain affiliate links. I just really know how difficult it can be to build a classroom library for emergent readers and I want to help make your job easier without the risk of wasted money.
Where to Find Book Level Information from Scholastic Reading Club
Before I dive in to show you my recent purchases, let's take a second to talk about reading levels. There are multiple systems for leveling books. The most common systems are Lexile (LEX), Guided Reading Level (GRL) and Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA). Different schools use different types of assessments to determine their students' reading levels. In my classroom, I assess using the DRA system, but I label the books in my library using Guided Reading Level Labels. You can find a reading level equivalency chart here.
Scholastic does not provide reading level information for every book they sell in Scholastic Reading Club, but they do share the reading level of some books. You can find the reading level in small text at the bottom of a listing in the catalog and below the price of a book if you are shopping online.
I really wish that Scholastic would provide a reading level for every book that they publish and carry in Scholastic Reading Club. I also wish they offered a book order catalog that only contained Guided Reading Levels A-D so I could easily shop for my kindergarten classroom library, but that is a different blog post for a different day. For now, I just have to skim the book order for my desired reading levels. There are usually 2-4 items offered in each flyer.
Guided Science Readers™ from Scholastic (A-D)
When I order books from Scholastic, I almost always purchase the latest set of Guided Science Readers. They usually offer new titles seasonally and I scoop them up every chance I get.
First off, these little books are a gold mine in part because they are non-fiction. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you know how essential nonfiction texts are to curriculum, especially when it comes to the Common Core. Not only is it important to expose children to as many nonfiction texts as possible, but children happen to love nonfiction. Especially about animals. They are intrigued by photos and facts and often want to learn as much as possible.
Usually, however, there is a downside to nonfiction texts. They are often much more difficult to read. And the very topic that would otherwise inspire a love of reading can easily break a child down because it is simply too much of a challenge for a beginning reader to take on.
With Guided Science Readers™, however, that is not the case! Interesting nonfiction topics that are easy to read for all kindergarten students makes these books the best of both words.
This particular pack, like many other Guided Science Reader sets from Scholastic, contained a variety of books from Guided Reading Level A-D.
Level A Text Features
The Guided Reading Level A texts feature short sentences with plenty of picture support and a lot of repetition. The text is presented in a nice, big print that is easy for students to point to and maintain focus. The short sentence are also loaded with critical sight words for young readers. These Level A texts are perfect for building reading confidence – which is exactly what my kindergarten students that are a Level A need!
I happily added these books to the “Level A” basket of my classroom library.
Level B Text Features
The Level B books included in this pack of Guided Science Readers also contained the same great picture support, sight words, simple sentence structure and repetition. Two lines of text are presented on each page to provide just enough of a challenge for readers, while still allowing them to build confidence and feel the excitement of success while reading.
Level C Text Features
Children reading at a Level C are ready to initiate problem solving strategies to solve unknown words and these texts mix in a few sentence with unpredictable words and sentence patterns. These added challenges are balanced out with some sentence and sight word repetition so children don't feel overwhelmed by the challenge. You may also notice that the print in the level C books is a little smaller than it was in the level B books.
Level D Text Features
For my more advanced kindergarten readers, Level D books are a great fit! These Guided Science Readers offer smaller text with longer sentences. I love how these books even used nonfiction text features to illustrate key words and concepts. It's a great way to introduce these features in a way that is accessible to all children.
Guided Science Readers Levels E and F
Before this year, I had only seen Guided Science Readers available in Levels A-D. I think Scholastic must realize how much classroom teachers love these books because I was overjoyed to discover that they offered a pack of Levels E and F this fall!
These books were the same great text format that my students love, with small added challenges for more advanced readers.
After several years of stocking up on Scholastic books, I have actually built up a significant stock of Level A-D texts for my classroom library but my box of Level E books is somewhat limited. These were a great addition to the collection.
National Geographic Kids™ Sight Words Box Set
While I absolutely adore my Guided Science Readers, I am always looking to expand my nonfiction book collection and provide a greater variety of nonfiction books in my classroom library. I took a chance and ordered the National Geographic Kids™ Sight Word Box Set. They have a Guided Reading Level of C-F, which meant they had potential for my higher readers.
Each book in the set clearly labeled which sight words were featured inside.
The texts seemed like they would be a great fit for my Level C-F readers and I really liked that the featured sight words are in bold on each page.
You can see from the photo above and the one below that there was a repetitive pattern to the text. This was “book 2” in the set, so I'm sure it was a Level C (other books were more challenging) but it seemed to be an accurately labeled as a Level C text.
I Can Read! Penguin Young Readers Pack Levels B-D
Leveled fiction texts are always easier to come across on Scholastic. I had never purchased any Penguin Young Readers books, but I took a chance and ordered the I Can Read! Level B-D Pack.
The books varied in difficulty but they were pretty good. The text wasn't over-the-top interesting (it rarely is for books that are easy to read), but these little books did the best they could.
I was particularly happy to see this book in the collection that used speech bubbles and simple print. I'm guessing this was a Level B text. It was a sweet book and this student loved it.
Just- Right Readers Community Pack (A-C)
The Just-Right Readers Community Pack appeared to be a good fit for my early readers as well. Fiction stories may not be as engaging as non-fiction, but this pack was about community helpers and many kindergarten students love reading about community helpers.
Even though the pack said it was for children reading as low as a Level A, I definitely could not see how any of my lowest kindergarten readers would be successful reading these books. This was one of the easiest books in the set and those sight words (write, with, our) were just too hard. I could see my children reading one difficult sight word, but three tough ones in the same sentence? It wasn't going to work with my students that really struggle.
While I would hesitate to classify these books as a Level A in my own classroom library, I would agree that the books were a good fit for Level B and Level C readers.
Sofia the First Reader Box Set
For the final set of books that I purchased, I may have actually lost my mind a little. I never purchase character books from Scholastic. Ever. Not even when they come in a boxed set that says “sight words” or “phonics” because the words that are integral to any famous animated character storytelling are too difficult for most kindergarteners to read independently.
Do kindergarteners love books featuring their favorite characters? Absolutely.
Can a kindergarten student read those beloved character books independently? Probably not.
I invest in books for my library that are leveled and likely to help my students be successful when they read. Character books usually do not accomplish this task. Which is why I have no idea what compelled me to purchase the Sofia the First Reader Box Set.
In all honesty, I don't have a clue who Sofia is. I recognize the three fairies from Disney's Sleeping Beauty so I can only assume that Sofia is some sort of spin-off. I think I purchased this set because I was feeling very hopeful when I saw that some of the books were classified as Level A. Character books are motivating and I would be thrilled to find character books that my students can actually read.
Some of the books made me think that it might be possible for my students to have success. Like this one with the simple sentence “I am a friend”. I wish the print were bigger, but at least the text isn't too much of a challenge.
This book appears to be a Level B text. Ok, not too bad…
And then I opened up a few more books. Ugh. I know that savvy readers who love Sofia could probably figure out that the long word that starts with a w is Whatnaught (whom I can only assume is a widely known Sofia character). But my low readers who might not be so savvy? They might immediately be intimidated by that crazy looking word.
And then there was the word headmistress. Sigh.
These would be great stories for a parent to read to a child at bedtime (and the child could learn the challenging words after hearing them read several times) but I'm not convinced that they were the best purchase for my classroom library. I'll add them to my book leveled book boxes and see what happens.
Straight Talk About Leveled Books
I am so happy to add all of these new titles to my classroom library, but I was a little disappointed with the level identification. Of this entire collection, only one set of books was easy to determine the exact reading level: the Scholastic Guided Readers. They clearly displayed the book level right on the front cover. The other books were all listed as range of reading levels, but it was impossible to easily identify the reading level of individual books in the set. Typically, I would just scan the books with one of the book leveling apps on my iPhone, but sadly every book that I attempted to scan said that book level information was not available. I was pretty disappointed that books I ordered from Scholastic were not indexed in Scholastic's Book Wizard app. I hope that they update their database soon with more information about the books they sell in Scholastic Reading Club.
If you want to know more about the tools I use to level my classroom library, you can read all about it in this blog post.
Increase Parent Purchases from Scholastic Book Orders
One of the easiest (and most affordable) ways to stock up a classroom library is through Scholastic Reading Club. It's even better when you can cash in bonus points to get those books for FREE. This blog post has all my best tips to help you boost parent orders from Scholastic Reading Club. The more parents purchase, the more you can build your own library. It's win-win.
Check out My Newly Updated Classroom Library
My own kindergarten classroom library is filled with books from Scholastic. The library got a big makeover this year. You can see all of the details of how I organized the library in this blog post.