One More Way To Make Your Students Love Books As Much As You Do!

Yesterday morning, I started out my Friday as I always do: reading Doug Peterson‘s This Week In Ontario Edublogs postOne of the posts that he highlighted was Stepan Pruchnicky‘s post on making your students love books as much as you do. He includes a wonderful list, but I wonder if there’s one more point to add to it: don’t level your library. 

For years, we’ve had two types of books in our classroom:

  • groups of books that are sorted by topic/interest.
  • groups of books that are sorted by level.

Most students only chose to read the levelled books as part of the Take Home Reading Program, but then this year, after many discussions and a lot of reading, we decided to change our Take Home Reading ProgramThis blog post by Fountas and Pinnell may have influenced our decision the most. We teach the youngest students in the building, and if their decision to explore a book is based solely on what words they can read in it, they may decide to never open a book. In the long run, what value does this have in producing life-long readers?

I understand why people level books, and I even understand the value in picking books that children can read on their own, but our very youngest readers are likely to need support with all reading materials. Often the easiest books are pattern-based, and as adults, we’re the ones that establish the pattern for the child. At times this may build confidence in reading, but how are we continuing to build reading skills?

  • There’s value in children telling stories based on the pictures.
  • There’s value in having children listen to stories and developing comprehension skills.
  • There’s value in reinforcing letter-sound skills within the meaningful context of a book.
  • There’s value in helping children understand that there are many reasons to read — from interest to information — and that even as adults we read items of varying degrees of difficulty. If we really want to read something, sometimes we’ll work that much harder at decoding and comprehending it, as the content matters so much to us.

Here are two things that I struggle with though.

  • If a child sees him/herself as a non-reader because even the text in the easiest book is too challenging for him/her to read.
  • If a child gives up on reading because the number (or letter) on a bin makes him/her feel as though he/she is behind in reading and/or less successful than his/her peers.

And so, a few days ago, we worked with a small group of children and we started to remove the levels from the book bins. 

Amazing things happened during this process. 

Students started to understand why reading matters. Why do we read?

Students started to access books that they wouldn’t have read before. Even though these books were challenging, they began to really use decoding skills to help read the words on the page. 

All students were drawn to the books. Children that spent the most time with the books were not the ones that usually do so. More children WANTED to read and to engage with text. 

Book sorting from today (for our at home reading program). #ctinquiry #iteachk #teachersofinstagram

A post shared by Aviva (@avivaloca) on

Students also got excited about reading and wanted to bring books home with them. The more they read, the more proficient they’ll become at reading. 

I’m curious to see the impact that removing reading levels has on children’s perceptions of themselves as readers and on children’s growth in reading. Would less focus on levels help increase reading interest across the grades, and ultimately, lead to more proficient readers? I’d be curious to know what others have tried and what they’ve observed. Like Stepan, my teaching partner and I want kids that want to read. How do levels support this, and if they don’t, is it time to start advertising them less in our classrooms? This does not mean that I will never read a levelled text with students, but it does mean, that I will not be discussing the levels with the child or the parents. Instead, I’ll be exploring ways that we can get the child reading and engaging more with books. This seems like a better focus to me. What about you?


2 thoughts on “One More Way To Make Your Students Love Books As Much As You Do!

  1. “What level am I?”
    “You’ve grown a lot as a reader this summer. You are stopping to check your understanding and you are using several strategies to figure words out.”
    “But what level am I?”
    “You are reading independently around the I level.”
    The child burst into tears. (He knew friends that were reading at J &K).

    This conversation took place with a child that I had tutored through the summer. He had progressed from reading independently at level G to reading with accuracy, fluency and comprehension at level I. To him what he could do didn’t matter. Only “the letter” mattered. To him he still wasn’t really a reader.

    My heart was broken. Two days before school started I decided to dismantle my leveled library. We spent many days sorting books. My second grade students made the categories and the labels. I can’t wait to see where their reading takes them this year.

    • Thanks for sharing this story, Rebekah! I think it sums up my thoughts exactly. And now, hopefully students will start to see themselves as “readers” and not “levels.” Please share how this goes.


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