Readers, subscribe for a freebie. Click Here!


Writing for Grade Levels

With my upcoming presentation about writing for the educational market, I thought share a bit more for those who are curious. Today I'm talking about readability in educational writing which is a passage's level of reading difficulty.

Writing for the educational market is quite different than writing a trade book. (Learn more about educational and trade markets here. And here's another post about writing for the educational market.) 

The educational market is typically written on assignment from a publisher. They prefer to match books to curriculum topics, so they have a grade level in mind when they ask you to write a book or story. The grade level may be a range such as grades 2-4. Or it might be a very specific readability level.

When you need to make your writing on grade level (whether your draft is too high or too low) consider changing
• sentence length
• sentence structure
• sentence complexity
• subject/verb order
• word choice
• length of paragraphs

About Word Choice

When it comes to word choice, my understanding is many reading level analyzers focus on the length of words as well as the number of syllables. 

A fabulous source is the Children's Writer's Word Book (affiliate link, but ask your local bookstore to get it). Basically, Alijandra Mogilner created a thesaurus according to grade level! It's amazing. I purchased my 2nd edition copy in 2016 and still use it for work-for-hire projects. 

About Readability

When writing for the educational market, you want to know the level of the reading difficulty. Basically, that means how hard or easy the words are to read on a scale. 

Some publishers use ATOS; others use Lexile or other readability tools. Editors will tell you what tool to use. If they don't provide information about the tools to measure, just ask. 

Picture books are intended to be read by an adult, so readability is not important for picture book writers. Don't concern yourself with this if you write picture books. 

ATOS Level (Accelerated Reader):

I'm most familiar with writing to an ATOS level. This is the official ATOS tool which tells you the reading level of your text. Copy and paste your text into the analyzer or upload a document. Wait for the results.Here's the link to the ATOS tool at Renaissance Learning

Seriously, try it! Right now with any piece of writing. 

Here's a screenshot of a report. 

There's lots of key information there. You may only look at ATOS level, but all of the information included in the report helps you to know how to proofread.

Lexile Levels:

You have some options to find the Lexile level.

Option 1: Use this Lexile generator. If I remember correctly, this is best used with the paid membership. If you write phonics curriculum, decodable stories, or a lot of educational books, it will be worth it. 

Option 2: First find the ATOS level by using the tool above. Then use this chart (or a similar one) to see how the ATOS level corresponds to the Lexile level (and other readability systems) and grade level. Note: ATOS 3.2 is a 2nd grade level--not 3rd grade as some may assume.  

Word Document:

In a Word document, click REVIEW on the ribbon. Then click ABC√/Spelling & Grammar. Complete the grammar prompts. When the document is complete, it will show you the readability statistics including the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. Some companies prefer this readability. Note: This doesn’t work with all versions of Word, including my current version.

Learn More about Readability:

If you didn't already read the blog posts linked at the top, here they are again. Learn more about educational and trade markets here. And here's another post about writing for the educational market. And here's one from the GROG blog

Another option is to learn from Laura Purdie Salas's book Writing for the Educational Market (affiliate link). If you know you want to write for the educational market, this book shares a ton! Laura Purdie Salas has step-by-step help to get you published! Highly recommend!

I also provide mentoring and critiques to kidlit writers, including a WFH critique package. I love seeing my clients get published! And yes, they have!

If you like this post, please consider signing up for my monthly author newsletter. Thanks!

1 comment