Any parent with a struggling reader knows how challenging it is.
But when you have an advanced reader who is reading well above grade level, that can also present it’s own challenges too!
Keeping those advanced readers in books is tricky and it can also be difficult to find books that are at their reading level that aren’t filled with content that is above their maturity level.
Here are some of my best tips for keeping reading engaging for readers above grade level.
14 Tips for Readers Above Grade Level
- Let them be a child. It can be really exciting to have a child who is an advanced reader – those sky-high test scores can make you feel like a GREAT parent. I always try to keep in mind that my long-term goal for my child is to love reading and have a positive lifetime relationship with books, not to keep pushing them as fast and as hard as possible toward harder and harder books. Emotional maturity matters as much when it comes to reading as actual reading abilities and I don’t want to make reading feel stressful or overwhelming.
- Explore the classics. When I asked for suggestions for tips for advanced readers, this was FAR and away the most common response. Older books often have a higher reading level without some of the topics that might feel inappropriate for a younger child (and, of course, the classics come with their own set of topical challenges, like racist or sexist content, so I never feel like older books just get a free pass to not worry at all about what your child is encountering).
- Check out non-fiction. Non-fiction is a terrific option for readers above grade level because it often requires more critical thinking, has higher vocabulary and dives deeper into topics than fiction books aimed at that same age.
- Don’t feel like every book they read has to push the limits of their abilities. It can feel like just because they CAN read at a fifth grade level when they’re a kindergartener, that they should always be reading at that level. But that’s like saying that because you CAN run a marathon, every run needs to a marathon to be worthwhile and that’s not true – a five mile run is great too and so is a half marathon distance. It’s good to have a variety of levels of reading and a kindergartener will benefit from reading books at their maturity level just as much as they’ll benefit from reading books at their reading level.
- Keep reading aloud. It’s easy to quit reading aloud to your child once they can read on their own, but especially with advanced readers, it’s great to keep reading aloud so that you can discuss together, see how their comprehension is, and help introduce them to new genres, authors, and topics. Plus, it’s just such great quality time together.
- Ask a librarian. Likely, your librarian will have lots of good suggestions for books and series that more advanced readers will enjoy without being too mature for them. Ask for suggestions – it’s extra great in person because you can tell them what books your child has loved, which ones have been a miss and what kinds of things they can handle.
- Check out Junior Library Guild. I love Junior Library Guild’s book recommendations which are across MANY genres and topics (you can see them here!), but I particularly love the Middle Grade PG category which is for terrific books without edgy content, violence or language.
- Re-read, re-read, re-read. Re-reading is a great way to build comprehension and other vital reading skills (I have a whole post here about the benefits of re-reading!)
- Find series with lots of books. My mom always said that a long series was a gift for a voracious reader because instead of having to find a new book after every volume, you have many books for them to read before you have to find something new. I read SO MANY Redwall books in my childhood and have the best memories of each new installment in the series.
- Focus on wider reading. The wonderful thing about today is that there are SO MANY BOOKS available in every age range. Don’t feel like your advanced reader has to keep pushing into higher and higher levels when there are so many great options at their current maturity level. Explore a bit more, find new authors, and keep expanding your child’s reading horizons. Just because your child is reading at a ninth grade level when they’re a first grader doesn’t mean they’re emotionally a ninth grader or prepared to read the kinds of books aimed at young adults – it’s great for them to keep reading at their own maturity level even if the reading level is below what they’re capable of.
- Try different genres. It can be easy for voracious readers to fall into reading the same genres over and over again. Try some historical fiction or poetry or or biographies – different genres require different kinds of reading and thinking and incorporating more variety helps them become stronger readers.
- Find a book club. Reading isn’t just about taking in words on a page. A book club can help your child think more critically about what they read (even if it’s below the level they could be reading on), be empathetic to how other people experience the same stories, and dig deeper into a story.
- Trade book ideas with other parents with advanced readers. Almost certainly your child isn’t the only one in their classroom reading above their grade level. Ask the teacher or your child who else is reading advanced books and get in touch with their parents to see what books have been good fits for their child.
- Know your child. It was fascinating to see the comments that came in regarding advanced readers and helping them pick appropriate books. Here are two samples:
Sometimes it means saying “not yet” to a book they want to read. Just because they can, doesn’t mean they should. Say no, books don’t have to be advanced for kids to benefit from them.
Open conversations about content they might encounter and choosing books wisely. Let them self monitor. Don’t assume it’s too adult. Kids are braver and smarter than we think. Let them read what they want.
You’ll know if your child needs more guidance and help choosing books and can handle more adult themes or if they’ll be scared or worried about books with more mature topics. There’s no right answer – it’s a question of what’s best for your particular child and you know them best.
Do you have a reader above grade level? I’d love to know your best suggestions for how to help your advanced reader!