English-language books are typically written with a particular reading level in mind. Books with good illustrations, simple sentence structure, and limited vocabulary are suggested for beginning readers. Books with more complicated sentence structures, multiple lines to a page, and expanded vocabulary are for more advanced readers. A really good book, however, will have a message for people of any age.
Reading is a learning process where students move through stages of skills and levels of difficulty. Our sister program, Literacy for Peace and Justice, organizes storybooks by stages that cover specific literacy skills.
The Friends Peace Library organizes storybooks by levels of reading difficulty mapped out by educators and researchers at Fountas and Pinnell (F&P). This system gives detailed guidance to writers, illustrators, and publishers on aspects of book production, such as: thickness, size, and selection of fonts; spacing of letters, words, and sentences; number of words or lines per page; relationship of written words to illustrations; details of illustrations; and so forth. This guidance aligns the book to the developmental ability of readers. F&P has twenty-seven overlapping levels from preschool to adult reading. Our goal is to provide a list of books at each F&P reading level.
Because reading levels are used, readers can find books which are not so simple that they get bored and not so difficult that they get overwhelmed or discouraged. Children can pick books that they can read successfully. English-language readers who had access to children’s books at a young age take for granted the skills built naturally through books written, illustrated, and published adherent to such levels of difficulty. They develop an identity as a capable reader from a very young age, and build the skills to move beyond mere decoding to actual understanding.
Providing a physical example of a leveled reading collection means that librarians and teachers can begin to level books in their own local languages. Parents, teachers, and librarians can enlist writers, illustrators, and publishers to produce books that support reading with meaning and comprehension, closing a major gap in global injustice. We go beyond functional literacy for exploitation as a labor force and marketplace, to reading for understanding, insight, and meaning.