Tips for Communicating Reading Levels with Parents and Caregivers

Dr. Kenneth Kunz
July 10, 2021

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Many literacy educators are sought out by parents and caregivers to give updates about students' reading progress. Often, a familiar question strikes: “What’s my child’s reading level?”  In this brief post, my colleagues and I offer ten tips for responding to this common type of inquiry.

  1. Be prepared that this question might come up.  Some scenarios are more predictable than others (eg. report card distribution times, parent-teacher conferences, or specific meetings about a child’s literacy/language arts progress).
  2. Orient yourself to the fact that every developing reader is the child of a parent or caregiverThis is perhaps one of the most important reminders as we advocate for every child’s right to read while fostering supportive learning environments/partnerships.
  3. Start with the positive news. Positivity builds trust, rapport, and community.
  4. Consider providing information about the child’s literacy development ahead of any scheduled meeting.  Providing student work samples, assessments, or other artifacts ahead of the meeting gives parents/caregivers an opportunity to be informed and provides time for thoughtful consideration of questions for the teacher.
  5. Provide information about the intensity of small group instruction the child receives (eg. number of days/times per week) and a summary of progress collected from anecdotal notes.
  6. Emphasize that literacy development is complex, and, therefore, every child is always more than just “a level.” Include strengths and areas of needed improvement based on all (or hopefully most) of these ten considerations: phonological & phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing, background knowledge, motivation, engagement, and joy.
  7. Touch upon the expectations of your school/district/state that impact the instruction the child receives.  Explain any important local/state/national standards for literacy that impact the child’s instruction.
  8. Listen to parents/caregivers and pose inviting questions that allow them to “tell their child’s story.”  Consider asking:  What books excite your child?  What are reading experiences like with your child at home?  Do you have a favorite reading memory with your child?  If so, what is it?
  9. Remind parents/caregivers that choice and challenge are key ingredients for motivating readers. Choosing books solely based on reading level is not likely to hook in a voluminous, lifelong reader.
  10. Suggest practical activities related to reading at home.  

Bonus Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask: Have I provided all of the resources/information that are helpful to you at this time?

In this video, Dr. Kenneth Kunz rehearses a potential conversation regarding reading level inquiries (a conversation that often takes place during parent-teacher meetings).

For additional ideas, follow Dr. Kenneth Kunz (@DrKennethKunz) and For the Love of Literacy (@4LoveofLiteracy) on Twitter, or visit