As the students progress through the reading levels, they are required to build upon what they already know and to gradually demonstrate a shift towards independence.

The following summary of the ‘teaching emphases and reading strategies’ at each reading level is only a guide. Children rarely move through a predetermined list of behaviors in the same order as each other. Some skills / strategies will need a lot of revision across the levels, and others may be well known before the levels listed here.


I am reading Level 1 or 2

I am learning:

  • Print contains the message (not just the pictures).
  • To look at the picture before reading the text.
  • The pictures and the print go together to give the message.
  • Print is written from left to right and top to bottom.
  • The return sweep (i.e. when the eyes get to the end of the line they go back to the beginning of the next line).
  • To read the left page before the right page.
  • To know the difference between pictures, letters and words.
  • To know a written word is one unit with a space on either side.
  • To match one written word with one spoken word.
  • To recognise upper case and lower case letters (e.g. Aa, Bb) and recognise letters written in different fonts (e.g. a, a).
  • To match some letters to sounds.
  • To identify frequently used words within print (e.g. look, I, me, the).
  • To talk about letters by name (e.g. cat begins with a c).
  • To recognise a pattern throughout a text (e.g. My mum can sing. My mum can drive. My mum can ….), and rhyme (e.g.The cat was wearing a h__). 
  • To stop and take a breath at full stops.
  • To reread to fix known mistakes.


I am reading Level 3 or 4

I am learning:

Level Three

  • To talk about the book before reading it, using the title, the pictures and prior knowledge to help understand the meaning.
  • To predict words using the pictures, and repeated lines and phrases.
  • To check if a word is right or wrong – based on the 1st sound, pictures, meaning.
  • To retell stories to show that l understand what l read.

Level Four

  • To always check the 1st letter matches the word that l say.
  • To attempt to self-correct errors.
  • To monitor for meaning – “Did that make sense?”
  • To look at the words a little more closely and have ‘another go’.
  • To use pictures and prior knowledge to check the meaning.
  • To focus on the meaning of the story rather than reading each word by itself (word by word reading).
  • To guess a word that will come next because that is the way we say it in our language (structure, grammar).
  • To use different ways of working out words (look at the picture – think about the story, read up to the word and say the first sound or part out loud, and reread).


I am reading Level 5 or 6 or 7

I am learning:

Level Five & Six

  • To cross check the look of the word with meaning– (e.g. it starts with the right sound, but does the picture look like a ‘horse’ or a ‘helicopter’?).
  • To check for word endings – Words may start the same but end differently- (e.g. cat / car, go / goes, play /played).
  • To notice similarities and differences between words (e.g. day / play, she / shop).

Level Seven

  • To quickly predict (guess) and check (sound right? Look right?) before saying words out loud- (to cut down the need to self-correct words).
  • To reread if not sure if it sounds appropriate (makes sense / grammar) and looks right  (beginnings and ends) and self correct if necessary.
  • To gain more meaning from the text rather than just relying on the picture.
  • To reread to sort out meaning (if stopped reading / if slow, stilted reading or if struggling to take a word apart).
  • To quickly take words apart- ( e.g. sh-op)
  • To use an appropriate full stop voice.
  • To notice “…” (quotation / talking marks) before or after words like ‘said’.
  • To sound like a good reader – (phrased like talking, suitable pace).


I am reading Level 8 or 9

I am learning:

Level Eight

  • To check middle sounds of words (e.g. sing / song) as well as beginnings and ends.
  • To begin to say blends automatically, e.g. ‘tr’ ‘br’ ‘gr’.
  • To look for known parts within words, (e.g. th-is) and say the parts quickly.
  • To recognise compound words, e.g. to-day (Use fingers to isolate parts).
  • To ask questions in my mind to help me understand and make inferences (I think this ___ because of ____.)

Level Nine

  • To make and break more words myself: compound words (bath-tub), rhyming words (long, strong), onset and rime (bl-ack) and contractions (don’t, can’t).
  • To make self-corrections with attention to beginnings, middles and ends.
  • To retell a lot of information from the pictures and the print.
  • To track with eyes, and rarely with a finger.


I am reading Level 10 or 11 or 12 or 13

I am learning:

Level Ten & Eleven

  • To see / hear and use the link between known and unknown words, e.g. unknown word ‘right’ – know ‘night’  – use the connection.
  • To take apart some challenging words, e.g. hospital.

Level Twelve & Thirteen

  • To take over more of the book introduction: use title and front picture – what can I expect this book to be about? Use the illustrations and the features of the book (labels, contents page etc) to make predictions.
  • To scan ahead for some information –structure / vocabulary / punctuation e.g. “…” to assist fluency.
  • To read longer text with more challenging words, e.g. special.


I am reading Level 14 or 15

I am learning:

Level Fourteen

  • To consistently use all 3 cues (meaning, structure, visual): use of pictures, prior knowledge, first part and known parts of a word, and grammar.
  • To break up longer words into syllables- e.g. en-or / enor-mous / enormous.
  • To consistently reread after some reading work (e.g. taking a word apart / having multiple attempts at a word) to check that it fits well with the surrounding text.

Level Fifteen

  • To use all reading strategies, solve more complex words (e.g. gigantic, greatest) and read smaller print.
  • To read and understand longer sentence of more than 10 words – using the punctuation, e.g. commas.
  • To group more words together to sound like a good reader. (N.B. Reading may become more stilted as the student focuses on looking at harder words, so he /she should read easier familiar books as well to keep up the phrasing (fluency) and expression e.g. read as the voice of the character).


I am reading Level 16 and above

I am learning:

  • To automatically try different vowel sounds, both short and long (e.g. trying ‘a’ as in make or ‘a’ as in apple, trying ‘oo’ as in book or ‘oo’ as in cool).
  • To quickly try alternative sounds if the first attempt does not sound right, e.g. ‘c’ as in cat or ‘c’ as in ice, ‘g’ as in girl or ‘g’ as in giraffe.
  • Some ‘rules’ such as e on the end of words often changes the vowel sound.
  • To consistently read the punctuation- use of capitals, full stops, exclamation marks and quotation marks to make sense of the text. Changing the reading voice for . ? !
  • To always attempt to read new books as fluently as possible.
  • To use strategies to solve tricky words (e.g. reread, picture clues, look for chunks of letters that go together).
  • To be flexible. If one strategy is not working, quickly try something else.
  • To remember many details.


Some links for those who would like to read more about Reading Recovery levels, Guided Reading levels (Fountas and Pinnell levels) , features of texts at each level and reading strategies. The table shows the corresponding Reading Recovery and F & P levels.

reading recovery levels1Parent’s Guide to Text Level Indicators

Fountas & Pinnell Guided Reading Text Level Descriptions







Click on each level to make it easier to read.

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2 thoughts on “Levels

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