Most students are assigned to read books that are "on level". They are tested at school to determine their reading level, but it can be difficult to figure out which library books are on which level. Library patrons do have several tools available to help them determine reading levels.

The most helpful tool is Novelist. This is a subscription service provided by the Pioneer Library System, which helps readers and librarians find books and audiobooks for all ages of readers. Novelist content can be accessed by searching the OWWL catalog and viewing Novelist content for specific catalog records, or by going to the Novelist site

Get Novelist reading level information from the catalog

Search for a specific title, for example Diary of a wimpy kid: the third wheel. Click on the title of the print format to open the title details. Scroll down and click on the Reviews, Series & Suggested Reads tabs. In the expanded section, scroll down to Reading Level. This provides the Lexile number for that title. Click the [view chart] link to get additional information about Lexile numbers and how they correspond to grade level and other text measures, including Common Core Standards. 

Reading level example

Note: extra content, such as reviews, series information and reading levels, usually displays only in the print format.

Search for reading levels in Novelist 

Go to the OWWL resources page at: http://owwl.org/resources and click Novelist. If you are using a library computer, this will take you directly to the Novelist site. If you are using your home computer, you will be required to enter your library card number and password. 

From the Novelist main page, click Advanced Search.

Novelist advanced search link

In the Advanced Search screen, enter a keyword and scroll down to set a Lexile limiter. You can use an specific Lexile number or select a range. Click search.

Novelist advanced search by lexile options

The search results list will include only titles within the Lexile range. The results can be further limited as useful.

To see if the title is owned by an OWWL library, click the Check the Library Catalog link to automatically launch an OWWL Catalog title search. 

Other reading level search options in the catalog

Searching for reading levels in a library catalog is difficult mainly because of changing, and sometimes conflicting, standards in librarianship and education. Reading level as an important part of literacy education is a fairly recent development, and made more complex by the variety of publishers, learning services providers, and other agencies creating reading level assessments. Library cataloging practices are beginning to change to incorporate reading levels, but it is still largely non-standardized and inconsistent. Reading level indications are more likely to be included in recently published materials. Pioneer Library System includes reading level information in records  we add to the catalog whenever possible. 

Keyword search for reading level

A rough search by reading level in the catalog is actually very simple: do a basic keyword using terms such as "level 3", "lexile 950", "grade 4", etc. If the term is in the record, the record will appear in the results list. Of course, with the exception of "Lexile" those terms may appear in other, non-reading level contexts.

Keyword search for lexile example

"Expert Search" for reading level

The expert search is generally used by librarians, and assumes that you have some knowledge of library cataloging standards. This strategy searches for one specific part of the catalog record, and there is no room for creativity here! To search for reading levels try this:

  1. In the catalog, click Advanced Search, then click Expert Search
  2. In the Tag box type 521
  3. In the Value box type a level, ex: 6  (this will return level 6, grade 6, or age 6)
  4. Click Search

Example expert search by tag 521

The results should include only records that have the number "6" in the 521 field of the record. This data will appear in the Rating line of the title details. If you wish to look at the technical side of the library record, open the title details and scroll down to the bottom pf the page, and open the MARC Record tab. Look for the tag 521 for the exact value text.

Example MARC view 521 search