I don’t know how many states use the Accelerated Reader program for their schools, but I have generated some lists of AR books in order of reading difficulty.
Even though I homeschool, I like using these lists to know what order to hand new books to my kids.
For example, the first Amelia Bedelia is the second hardest in the whole series. So, since I have my list, I know what order to give them to my kids to keep them from getting frustrated.
I have included:
- a list of Classic Easy Readers according to author and reading difficulty
- a list of Classic Mid-Grades according to author and reading difficulty
- a list of Great Picture Books for when I want my older kids to read to my youngest
- a list of Handy 3rd Grade AR List used in my parent school, which includes the whole Childhood of Famous Americans series, early Landmark Books, and the original Boxcar series
There have been plenty of criticisms of the AR rating system, most notably that their books are rated too low. A child who is halfway through second grade *should* be reading at a 2.5, but may find that 2.1 is challenging enough. I especially find this true of picture books.
I don’t know what the reading level formula is with AR, but it doesn’t seem to take into account that picture books are written to be read by adults. There’s LOTS of unusual words, phonetic exceptions, and funny fonts that would never show up in an easy reader or early chapter book. So, I have to knock my kids’ reading level back a bit in picture books so they don’t get frustrated. And I still sit with them the first time they read it to give them the weird words.
For example, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is supposed to be something a kindergarten kid can read (.9)? It’s got contractions and the word PIGEON on the cover! And the type is not standard at all. My daughter, a first grade reader, would go nuts trying to read it. And my oldest, who reads at a second grade level, could only read it after I helped him with it the first time through.
Regardless, I find that the system does seem to rate equally difficult books together within a category (middle grade, easy readers, picture books). I may not agree with the number they chose, but I generally agree that all the books they put at that difficulty level are the same. That helps me chose “the next” book for my kids, and that’s all I’m really interested in.