age range

Charlie Cook's Favorite Book

Is that book appropriate for a child to read? What about a pirate? Should I be worried about an alien being offended by the content within?

I’ve started to get some questions from readers about how I cite “age ranges” for certain kids’ books and whether or not, when I talk about “age ranges,” if I’m actually talking about “reading levels.” I understand how the distinction between the two can be confusing, so I’m going to try to clear things up a bit.

(Note to Readers: There is a 95% chance that, in the act of trying to “clear things up,” I will, in fact, make things “infinitely more confusing.” The best thing to do is probably just sit back and enjoy watching me dig myself into a hole.)

So, when I list the “age range” in one of my book reviews, what exactly am I talking about? In my interpretation of “age range,” I’m talking about whether or not the material in the book is appropriate for a child of that age. When I state a certain age range – let’s say “3 and older” – I’m saying “it should be fine to READ THIS BOOK to any kid who’s three years old or older.” (And I’m also implying that it’s OK for your child to browse the book on their own.)

Since I have a five-year-old kid, almost every book I’ve profiled on the blog, in my opinion, is appropriate for any other five-year-old and most should be fine for any kid younger than five too. The only books that I’ve written about so far that I wouldn’t share with my own daughter right now are the books I’ve labeled “Books My Kid Will Read in the Future” (that should’ve been insanely self-explanatory).

However, don’t think that “age range” means the same thing as “reading level.” To me, “reading levels” are all about independent reading. A reading level is an estimation of “a child this age should be able to read the text of this book on their own without much help.” While most of the books I’ve profiled fall within my daughter’s “age range” – i.e. the material is appropriate for her – far, far less fall into her “reading level” – i.e. she’d be able to read the entire book on her own.

Is that clear?

In my opinion, age ranges are fairly easy to identify. It’s basically you, as a parent, asking yourself, “When do I think my kid would be old enough for me to read this book to them?” But, to me, reading levels are much, much harder to calculate. Maybe it’s because my daughter is relatively new to independent reading, but I’m not much good yet at looking at a book and estimating whether or not my kid will have trouble with the vocabulary. [read the rest of the post…]