How to 'Read' Your Child's Reading Scores

Teachers use a leveling system to determine your child's reading score. Learn about the three major leveling systems and how to understand the meaning behind the scores.

Is your child a G or an L? A 13 or a 24? As a second grader, is a DRA 32 a good reading score?

In most schools, and especially around report card time, kids come home with reports that detail a child's reading level. Oftentimes, these reports make little sense to parents. While most kids make terrific progress during the school year, parents sometimes struggle to make the same progress in interpreting reading scores and different leveling systems.

Most schools use one of three major leveling systems to define a child's reading level: Guided Reading, Reading Recovery, and Developmental Reading Assessment. Although some variations exist, the procedure for determining a child's reading score follows a sequence. First, a teacher (or school) chooses a benchmark book for a grading period. Then, each child sits one-on-one with a teacher and reads that book. The teacher reads along with a child and keeps track of the child's reading accuracy. After the story is read, teachers typically ask for a retelling of the book, or may ask some comprehension questions. With each assessment, a teacher is trying to find the level at which a child can read with 90 to 95% accuracy with good comprehension. That is considered your child's instructional reading level.

Here's a little about each leveling system, and a chart that shows you how they relate to each other and to a grade level assignment.

Guided Reading levels

This leveling system is based on the understanding that good teachers carefully match a reader with a book. Based on several characteristics of a book, such as text length, and vocabulary, books are assigned a Guided Reading letter. There are 26 levels, identified by letters A-Z (A being the easiest), and each book level has its own characteristics. If your child is "reading on a Level G," for example, he or she is able to read books with several events and a variety of characters. Sentences are longer than in previous levels, and the book may contain more difficult high-frequency words.

Reading Recovery

This leveling system is based on Reading Recovery, a one-on-one intervention program designed for low achieving first graders. Books used within this intervention program are grouped by characteristics and range from 1-50 (1 being the easiest). As with Guided Reading, books within a certain level share similar features. If your child is, "reading on a Level 2," he or she is able to follow a pattern within a book after it has been introduced by the teacher.

Developmental Reading Assessment

The Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) is a series of leveled books and recording sheets designed to allow teachers to determine students' reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension levels. Texts range from A-80 (A being the easiest). In most schools, teachers collect DRA information at the end of each grading period to determine student progress. Students are determined to be near, at, or above grade level, below grade level, or significantly below grade level based on their performance.

As a parent, it's important to understand the leveling system used at your school and how your child is doing toward meeting grade level expectations. Keep track of those letters and numbers being sent home, and if you don't see progress in your child's reading level, make an appointment to sit down with the teacher.

Joanne Meier (2009)


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When a child is reading at level R, for examples, is that the instructional or indepedent level?

My child is in kindergarten and reading a level G. Is that on grade level or below grade level?

If my son is reading at a DRA level 22 (he's in 3rd grade) is he reading at or close to grade level? Thanks

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