This page provides information, resources, and links on leveling books for your classroom library.  Included are leveling systems, management ideas, and resources to help teachers start or expand their leveled books collection.


Why Leveled Books?

As all teachers know, not all children in the same grade read on the same level or even read at their own grade level.  So why make all children read the same book?

Studies show that the best way to teach kids to read is to pair them up with books that are at their instructional or independent reading level.  Students can build their fluency and comprehension skills when they read books that are on their target level, allowing them to concentrate on comprehension instead of struggling in decoding unknown words.  Richard Allington states in his book What Really Matters for Struggling Readers (2001) that struggling readers are probably reading books that are above their reading level and should be provided with appropriately leveled texts.

Think about this - how fluently would you be able to read a crocheting instructions?  How much would you comprehend of a mechanical engineering book?  How many times have you read academic books that left you baffled?  How frustrated would you feel if you were given a test on a book you couldn't read or understand?

Leveled books allow students to read and comprehend various types of texts, exposing them to information and vocabulary they can understand, allowing students to gain background knowledge that will help them move onto higher level texts. It also promotes success in all students, particularly those on the lower spectrum.

To learn how to find students' reading levels (independent, instructional, and frustional), go to the Running Records page.


Leveling Systems:

There are various leveling systems, among them DRA, Reading Recovery, Accelerated Reading, Rigby, and Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading Levels.

I used the Fountas and Pinnell system (GRL) when I leveled my classroom library.  The majority of teachers use the Fountas and Pinnell system, which uses the alphabet as their code.

Some schools use leveled systems from programs such as Accelerated Reading. 

If your school does not have a required leveling system, then I suggest using Fountas and Pinnell.

Rigby provides a comparison chart for various leveling systems - our teachers have used this when we received leveled books from other companies and needed to find their Fountas/Pinnell level.

Reading A-Z also has a correlation chart for various systems.

How to Start:

Once you have decided which leveling system you want to use, you can begin leveling your classroom library.

Many will ask - do I level my entire library?  My answer is - that depends on you.  There are teachers that level their entire library whereas others just do 1/3 (which is recommended in most books).

I originally leveled about 1/3 of my library but now I would do my entire classroom library.  1/3 of the books would be placed in leveled book bins whereas the rest would remain in the regular classroom library bins.

The first step is to review your books and find their GRL levels using the following resources:


Depending you on the grade you teach, you can decide what guided reading levels will be available to students. When I was a second grade teacher, I had levels A - O (Grades K -4) available since my students' reading levels were all over the place.

Therefore, I created bins for Levels A - O (about 15 baskets).  Many recommend that you try to come up with a labeling system that is ambiguous but sometimes it just easier to label the books with the letters of the alphabet.

Since I wanted a simple labeling system but wanted to avoid students' awareness of its implications, I decided to use animals.

Here is what I came up with:

Level: Animal: Level: Animal:
A alligator N newt
B buffalo O ostrich
C cat P panda
D dog Q quail
E eel R raccoon
F flamingo S snake
G goldfish T turtle
H hippo U unicorn
I iguana V vulture
J jellyfish W whale
K kangaroo X X-ray fish
L lion Y yak
M monkey Z zebra

I created book label bins with the name of each level and a picture of the animal.  I also created smaller labels that were attached to the back cover of each book.

Check out Beth Newingham's System. Scroll to the middle to see how she levels her books. I like her system immensely but would use it with older students.

Other leveling ideas:

  • colors

  • objects

  • names

  • places

  • sports teams

  • games


Now What?

Once your leveled library is organized, you need to teach your students how to use the new system.

My students were allowed to choose 3-5 books every day or two that would be read during their independent reading time or any other free time  Most of their choices were books on their level and the rest were books on their interests. 

In the beginning of the school year, some of my mini-lessons included:

  • choosing "just right" books
  • choosing and reading leveled books
  • procedures for library organization
Two Types of Leveled Libraries:

Leveled texts are used for two activities:

  • Independent Reading
  • Guided Reading

This page explains how to level your classroom library so that students have access to leveled titles for independent reading.

For guided reading, teachers should have various leveled texts with multiple copies (5-6 copies).  Many schools have a resource room with copies of leveled texts.  Other schools have ordered guided leveled readers for each classroom.  Our district currently uses Scholastic Guided Readers, as well as other smaller programs.

Before we received these readers, I had to create my own sets of guided leveled readers to use in guided reading.  Here are tips to help you create your own if you do not have massive funds to purchase commercial sets.

1. Reading - You can print various leveled readers and make copies.  There is a fee but in my opinion it is worth it.  For free samples, go to

2. Scholastic Book Club - Scholastic will have specials on multiple copies of books.  I used my points to purchase these sets to add to my guided reading library.

3. E-books - Free leveled books for young readers.

4. Ebay - I was able to find many great deals on multiple copies of books sold by teachers who were retiring or who had overstock of books.  Many of these came from Accelerated Reading or Reading Recovery programs.