Using Informal Reading Level Inventories to Improve Kids’ Reading Ability

Reading experts utilize Informal Reading Inventories (IRI) to help learners develop their reading skills and learn from texts at each grade level and in each subject. Reading assessments known as Informal Reading Inventories help reading educators and specialists identify the grade levels of texts that learners can read, uncover and address reading problems, and frequently track learner progress.

Whereas infrequently and formally given standardized reading assessments provide comparative scientific data for schools, policymakers, and researchers, regularly and informally given Informal Reading Inventories help educators keep assessment and instruction aligned each year.

Narrative vs. Expository Texts

From an early age, most kids hear bedtime stories and fairy tales. Knowledge of stories makes reading them easier than reading expository texts — or informational texts of the type found in social studies or science textbooks. Increasingly from grade 3 onward, learners often identify exposition as more challenging to follow than narratives. Although a kid can quickly get a fifth-grade short story, he may be reading informational texts at a lower tier. Most Informal Reading Inventories sold help educators identify reading levels for both kinds of texts.

Independent-, Instructional- and Frustration-Level Texts

Reading educators also utilize the diverse reading passages and comprehension questions in Informal Reading Inventories to learn which texts learners can read on their own — or independent-level texts. Learners independently read texts at this tier for enjoyment and develop reading accuracy, speed, expression, or fluency. Informal Reading Inventories help identify challenging texts that learners can read with teaching help, named instructional-level texts. Learners read texts at this tier to further develop reading and vocabulary skills and to learn content.

Finally, Informal Reading Inventories help educators spot which texts to avoid because they are too hard for learners to read even with help — these are named frustration-level texts. This info helps educators of each subject cater to learners’ reading levels across and within classes by, for instance, stocking class libraries with books at distinct reading levels that teach the same content and skills.

Reading Comprehension

Professionals utilize Informal Reading Inventories to informally and frequently to assess the development of varied reading comprehension skills. For instance, good readers make inferences that help them understand what they read. Poor readers are usually on autopilot while reading and do not make meaningful connections between reading and prior knowledge. Answers to before and after reading questions in Informal Reading Inventories help reading educators and specialists find such problems to target instruction. In this case, educators would focus on teaching inference making.

Reading Fluency

Reading experts utilize the word lists, timed reading passages, and error analysis tools in Informal Reading Inventories to initially assess and keep track of how fluently learners are reading. Disfluent readers don’t accurately recognize enough words in the content. Struggling with language rules distracts them from making sense of what their reading, and comprehension is the end goal in reading. IRI results can support educators in their efforts to isolate phonics and fluency issues for special attention.

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