Selecting books at the right level is essential for building strong independent readers.
Do not hesitate to read aloud books that are below or above a child’s reading level. If your child is paying attention, asking questions and seems interested in the text, then the reading has value.
If you want to know at approximately what grade level a book is written, you can try entering it into this Scholastic Book Wizard. I selected the grade level equivalent, but you may want to learn more about the Lexile score, as this can measure reading difficulty beyond 12th grade reading level. Keep in mind that these scores do not tell you whether your child is comprehending at that level. It is up to you to ask questions to check for understanding and train your child to use reading strategies during reading.
Reading comprehension results from several skills: the use of reading/thinking strategies, knowledge of text structure, comprehension of vocabulary, and ability to decode vocabulary. You can build on your child’s reading skills by modeling your thinking while reading books aloud, point out text features you are using to get information (pictures, headings), and showing your child what to do when they don’t understand a word.
I searched a text called “Mouse Paint” by Ellen Stoll Walsh and found that it is listed at a second grade level. This means that a child reading at a second grade reading level should be able to read the text independently, be able to retell the story and understand 90% of the words. I have been reading it aloud to my three year old to discuss how colors mix to create new colors. Because I am reading it aloud and supplementing the text with discussion of the pictures, my child is understanding the basics of the text.