How to support your kids’ reading skills based on their current reading level

When you're served up their reading level, turn it into an opportunity to push past the label and tune into the reader behind it.

How to support your kids’ reading skills based on their current reading level

Once your child hits elementary school, chances are at some point you'll be told a number, letter, or grade-level comparison that constitutes their reading level. Whether this information feels like a badge of honor, a dream-crushing blow, or just gibberish, here are some follow-up actions to help make this information meaningful.

Find out about more than the level

A reading level is just one data point. Overemphasis of reading-level labels has stirred up controversy among educators. Paula J. Schwanenflugel and Nancy Flanagan Knapp, authors of The Psychology of Reading, caution that measuring a child's reading skill is not nearly as simple as it sounds.

Questions to ask your child's teacher that will give you a more complete picture of your child as a reader include:

  • What are my child's reading strengths?
  • What aspect of reading is most challenging for my child?
  • What do you observe when you listen to my child read? Can you give me a specific example?
  • How does my child seem to feel about reading at school?

You might find out that your little is an avid participant when it comes to discussions of books they hear read aloud, but struggles with the mechanics of reading on their own, such as figuring out multi-syllable words or reading fluently enough to hang onto the meaning of the text. They might read every word accurately, but have no idea what they just read about if asked. They might start out strong but lack the stamina to finish a text. Maybe the skills are there, but she only uses them when the right book motivates her to do so. Whatever the case may be, learning about your child as a reader is most helpful.

(Note: These challenges are part of normal reading development for many children. If you're concerned your child has a true reading disability, it's your right under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act [IDEA] to request that your public school complete a special education evaluation for your child.)

Educate yourself about what they're reading

Matching your child with the best reading material is not as straightforward as handing him a stack of books at level 4.6, M, or 550L. Schwanenflugel and Flanagan warn that while book-leveling systems can be generally informative, distilling a book's "level" down to one figure isn't necessarily clear-cut.

Even Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, creators of the widely used "A-Z" reading level system, caution that their system was always intended as a "teacher's tool, not a child's label." They responded to a controversial piece in the School Library Journal urging adults to prioritize children's interests and opportunity to make choices when helping them select books to read.

Start by asking your child's teacher questions like:

  • Can you show me examples of what they read at school? What were your goals for them as they read this?
  • These are the types of books they read at home. Do you think they are a good fit? Do you have other suggestions?
  • What topics really seem to engage them at school? Can you suggest any related books?

Once you have a general sense of the kinds of books your child can read relatively fluently and with adequate comprehension, focus more on helping your child find books he wants to read. This will keep him reading, which is beneficial at any level.

Plan accordingly for reading at home

Whether your child is a literacy superstar or has areas in which they struggle, once you've found out more about how and what they read, consider making a few family updates to better support their needs. Here are a few ideas:

Appeal to what motivates your child.

Does your child have a competitive streak? Initiate a family reading challenge. The yearly challenges from Better World Books keep reading interesting and could easily be adapted for children. Are they socially driven? Sign them up for Goodreads so they can post ratings and reviews or let them write book reviews for e-commerce sites.

Channel your inner librarian and help your child find books that speak to her.

Follow children's book sites like New York Times Children's Books, Brightly and the Barnes & Noble Kids Blog. Stock up on popular series, authors, or new releases for birthday and holiday gifts. Don't stress if the books your child wants to read don't fit with your image of high-quality literature. Graphic novels, edgy genres like horror and fantasy, nonfiction titles and even magazine articles appeal more than the classics to many kids and are still "real reading."

Start your own mini book club.

Reading and discussing a book with your child is a great way to connect. It's an especially helpful approach if your child struggles with comprehension or sustaining interest long enough to get through a whole book. It's also a great support strategy if your child really wants to read a title that's a little over his head.

Don't underestimate the power of snuggling up with a great book together, even if your child can read independently—just get a bigger throw blanket!

A recent Australian study investigating family reading habits found that many families discontinue reading aloud once their children learn to read, which is unfortunate due to the host of benefits it can provide. These include boosting child confidence, vocabulary and enjoyment of reading—so keep reading together.

Parenting today is full of high-stress acronyms and figures. Do your child a favor: when you're served up their reading level, turn it into an opportunity to push past the label and tune into the reader behind it.

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These are the best bath time products you can get for under $20

These budget-friendly products really make a splash.

With babies and toddlers, bath time is about so much more than washing off: It's an opportunity for fun, sensory play and sweet bonding moments—with the added benefit of a cuddly, clean baby afterward.

Because bathing your baby is part business, part playtime, you're going to want products that can help with both of those activities. After countless bath times, here are the products that our editors think really make a splash. (Better yet, each item is less than $20!)

Comforts Bath Wash & Shampoo

Comforts Baby Wash & Shampoo

Made with oat extract, this bath wash and shampoo combo is designed to leave delicate skin cleansed and nourished. You and your baby will both appreciate the tear-free formula—so you can really focus on the bath time fun.

Munckin Soft Spot Bath Mat

Munchkin slip mat

When your little one is splish-splashing in the bath, help keep them from also sliding around with a soft, anti-slip bath mat. With strong suction cups to keep it in place and extra cushion to make bath time even more comfortable for your little one, this is an essential in our books.

Comforts Baby Lotion

Comforts baby lotion

For most of us, the bath time ritual continues when your baby is out of the tub when you want to moisturize their freshly cleaned skin. We look for lotions that are hypoallergenic, nourishing and designed to protect their skin.

The First Years Stack Up Cups

First year stack cups

When it comes to bath toys, nothing beats the classic set of stackable cups: Sort them by size, practice pouring water, pile them high—your little one will have fun with these every single bath time.

Comforts Baby Oil

Comforts baby oil

For dry skin that needs a little extra TLC, our team loves Comforts' fast-absorbing baby oil aloe vera and vitamin E. Pro tip: When applied right after drying off your baby, the absorption is even more effective.

KidCo Bath Toy Organizer

KidCo Bath Organizer

Between bathing supplies, wash rags, toys and more, the tub sure can get crowded in a hurry. We like that this organizer gives your little one space to play and bathe while still keeping everything you need within reach.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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