The Science of Reading and Literacy Centers, Part 3: Leveled Readers

What to Do With Leveled Readers and Other Books

Welcome to my third post about The Science of Reading and Literacy Centers!  If you have questions about what kinds of activities you might have your students complete during center time, you are in the right place.  After you read this post, you will find out why you should not throw out those leveled readers when implementing the Science of Reading in your classroom.

One of the biggest questions you might have is what to do with leveled readers and other books during center time in your classroom.  How can you put these kinds of books to good use?

The first thing I will say is when it comes to books, there is no such thing as a bad book!  The students in my classroom have access to leveled readers, easy readers, beginning chapter books, chapter books, and picture books. I organize my leveled readers by level, my picture books by genre, by topic, and even by author.  The chapter books are also relegated to a special section of my classroom library.  Leveled readers, easy readers, and picture and chapter books are all GREAT ways to provide enrichment and differentiate for all the learners in your classroom. I have never had a class yet who has not benefited from independent reading.
Science of Reading Chapter Books
It’s very important for students to have access to all kinds of books, whether they are picture books, easy readers, or leveled readers.

What to Do With Leveled Readers

Leveled readers do have a structure and text complexity that becomes more advanced as the levels increase. They are somewhat reliable in that students who have developed foundational skills and high-frequency word knowledge can be successful with them. Although leveled readers do not align with The Science of Reading, they can be useful in providing students with practicing fluent reading, reading comprehension, and reading for pleasure.
At the beginning of the year, I recommend assessing students on their foundational reading skills and then following up with progress monitoring throughout the year.  This is a very important step and is what will help you in identifying students in need of support.
Foundational reading skills include:

  • Knowledge of letter names and sounds
  • Ability to segment sounds in words and blend sounds to read words fluently ( move from b-a-t to bat without struggling to think of sounds)
  • Ability to read a variety of high-frequency words (Fry and Dolch are popular lists, but you might also use the lists that come with your curriculum)
  • More advanced readers might have the ability to read beginning and ending blends, vowel teams, digraphs, diphthongs etc.

I use leveled readers in my classroom as a “May Do” activity.  This means that students will read on their own. It’s important to provide books to students that they will be successful with, without any support.  If you do not assess their foundational skills and then use that data to provide appropriate books to your students, they may become frustrated and may not be successful at reading books independently. Always review the books before assigning them to students to ensure they will match the skills each student has.
The Science of Reading and Leveled Readers

When students complete their “Must Do” activities they may choose to read independently.  I allow students to choose 10 books at a time and place them in their book baskets. For students who can blend and segment sounds, read words fluently, and have sufficient high-frequency word knowledge, I provide them with specific levels that they may choose from.

If a student is a struggling reader, I recommend providing those students with your curriculum decodables and other decodables (as needed), like Bob Books, instead of providing leveled readers to students.  You can set up a special basket just for those students with alphabet books or other books that you have already worked on together with students.


All students are permitted to choose books from the picture book section but I save my chapter books for my highest readers who are very fluent, have good comprehension skills, and excellent high-frequency word knowledge.

The Science of Reading and Picture Books

Each group of students has a shopping day, where they may go to the class library and shop for books. Because I have my library organized, I teach the students where to find the books and how to put them away when it is time to trade books out on their next shopping day.

The Importance of Teaching Reading Strategies

It’s important to remember, even with leveled texts, students should be putting to use research-based decoding skills. Just because a student has a leveled reader in their hands, it doesn’t mean they are going to use ineffective strategies. Students will use the strategies you teach them, provided you give them explicit, direct instruction.

Students should not be relying on pictures for clues or guessing what the words might be. Students should be using strategies like:

  • Look at the letters in the word from left to right.
  • Blend the sounds together.
  • Look for parts you know (i.e. letter sounds, vowel teams, digraphs, blends, short vowels, etc.)
  • Break the word into syllables.
  • Cover part of the word. Read this part (i.e. “card” cover the c and the d. Look at the ar. What sound does ar make together? Now, let’s go back and read the first sound. What sound does this letter make?  And so on. Blend the sounds together and then read the whole word).
  • Ask for help.

Additional Activities for Leveled Readers, Easy Readers, and Picture Books

Even if you choose to not have students read books independently, you might choose some of these other activities with leveled readers instead:

  • Find words in the book with the sound-spelling pattern for the week and write those words in a journal.  Draw a picture to go with each word.
  • Use the pictures in the book to write your own story.
  • Use one picture in the book and write a sentence about what you see happening in the picture.
  • Tell a story to a partner about what the book might be about.
  • Read and write one sentence from the book. Create a new story based off of one sentence.

One Final Thought...

This might be more of a reminder than a thought. Make sure when you are providing books for your students or placing your students in groups that you progress monitor. Remember that groups are fluid and skills-based. Students may, and should, move groups when they acquire the necessary skills to move on.


Thanks for joining me! Next up will be some of the Must Do activities I assign to students. Stay tuned!

How to Find What You’re Looking For at Target®

As an elementary school teacher , there is just something fun about redecorating your classroom! For years I have had mismatched tubs, bins, and containers in my classroom.  So this year, I decided to invest some money in color coordinating my classroom storage bins, magazine files, caddies, trays, and book bins.

There are many places to shop including Dollar Tree, Walmart, Big Lots, and Target as well as many other box retail stores.  Each store offers different items and colors so check out each to get an idea of what you would like and what you will use.  That is KEY!  If you will not use it, do NOT buy it.

Often times teachers get caught up in the frenzy of thinking they need everything.  Now before you click OFF this page because I am saying you don’t need everything, just remember that you do what you are comfortable with doing and the amount of decorating you are comfortable with.  That may differ from teacher to teacher depending on the amount of money you feel like investing (or can afford to invest) or whether or not you are reimbursed for purchases by your school or PTA.

If you love the book bins and different kinds of containers, check out these awesome supplies you can find at Target® in the Dollar Spot section.

How do you find enough of what you need at Target?


 First, Target Dollar Spot items are not currently offered online. That means you are left to visit your local Target store to see what they have in stock.  If you live in a rural area, or an area in which you do not have access to many Target stores, this could become a little frustrating and discouraging to visit your local store and not be able to find what you need.

The first step is to find the DPCI number on the UPC label. Since I know some of you may not have easy access to these items at your local Target, I have included the DPCI numbers here to help you search.  The DPCI number is Target’s stock number.  Some of the items will have the same number, even for different colors of the same item.

You will find the DPCI number on the barcode, usually on top of or under the UPC number.  Most of the time it is marked by stating, “DPCI Number”, but sometimes there is just a number there and you have to look for it.

After you have the DPCI number, go to the website and select Target as the store.  Then enter the DPCI number there.  Enter your zip code and click on the search button.  You can opt to have the  list sorted in different ways, but I always have it sorted by distance so I can see what stock my local Targets have.

For instance, for these Book Bins with labels that Target refers to as “Connectable Holders” I would enter in 234-24-0163 for the DPCI number on Brick Seek.  Again, the color is irrelevant as these items are shipped with multiple colors in one box and each color has the same DPCI number.

Then, Brick Seek will create a list for you like this:

By looking at this list I can see that two of the three Target stores closest to me do not have any of these book bins in stock, but one has 20 available.  I usually go by the Saleable Quantity and not the On Hand Quantity.

Here are a few specific tips to find what you need: 


1. The best time to check is in the morning before the store opens.  They typically receive shipments in the early morning and the inventory will usually change dramatically overnight.

2. Stock can change throughout the day and may not be updated immediately online.  The best time to shop is right when they open.

3. If you get to your local Target and you do not see what you want, ASK! Go to the customer service desk and have them run a scan with their zebra (that’s the machine they use to find where stock is).  Sometimes they will say there isn’t any, but ask to have them find someone in the stockroom to look for the box. Sometimes, they will have stock in the back that has not been put out yet.  Many people overlook this handy customer service feature so this is very helpful.   Yesterday I was able to get eight book bins from a local shop in this teal green color. The customer service rep was SO helpful and I thanked him profusely.

4. I have included a list of DPCI numbers for the items I have pictured in my post. You can easily find them at the bottom of this post.  Just copy and paste the DPCI numbers onto the Brick Seek site to help in your search.

5. Enjoy!

Book Bins (Connectable Holder): 234240163
Plastic Caddy:  234240161
Dry Erase Pocket: 234240148
Plastic Tray (fits the dry erase pockets perfectly): 234240239
Metal Magazine Holder: 234070811 
Plastic Bin: 234240162
First Day of Board: 234240171

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Target or Brick Seek at all.  I am not responsible for inventory tracking which may or may not be accurate when you visit any store.