What reading level should a third grader be at
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What Reading Level Should a Third Grader Be At?

Reading Levels are most commonly used to find the instructional and independent reading levels of students. For 3rd grade reading levels this will enable teachers, parents and students to choose appropriate reading literature.

If the reading level of the book is in this ”goldilocks” zone then it will help students practice and develop reading skills that are just challenging enough. Too easy it becomes boring, and too difficult it becomes frustrating.

For third grade students this is a huge step forward. To do this, it is important to gauge at what reading level the student is performing and to do that you have to assess what their 3rd grade reading levels are.

Third grade reading levels commonly range from 12 to 25 on R.R. and PM Benchmarks. Higher levels in this range means that they are nearing the top of the class, but lower levels should not cause any issues at this stage. Guided reading and levelled books will help 3rd graders improve their reading skills.

Reading at appropriate levels is especially important in grade three English lessons. Students at this age and development stage are starting to read for fun and enjoyment, they are starting to choose their own interests.

Although there is still plenty to learn in English, they will be starting to master phonics and pronunciation rules at this stage and focus will be on reading comprehension and reading to learn. ( if a high enough level has been achieved)

This what reading level should a third grader be at article will also cover the following information:

  • Targeted information on reading levels and how you as parents and teachers can help your students by having knowledge of them
  • Tips and advice to help your 3rd grade students develop to the best of their abilities.
  • Some of the grammar, Phonics and other English Topics that a 3rd grader will learn in reading lessons.
  • Links to our Reading resources, for 3rd grade and others.
  • Advice for both teacher and parents on 3rd grade reading levels

We have a selection of reading resources in the link below if you want to get stuck in. These range from grade 2 up to grade 4 and loads of phonics resources as well – and are printable with comprehension questions included

There are free versions of these on the site as well however the bundle is a better option!

Why Are Reading Levels Important

Reading levels in English are an excellent way for teachers, parents to provide differentiated instruction and resources that target a students strengths and areas for improvement. They provide a individual leveled starting point to challenge but not frustrate students English progress.

Reading levels allow teachers and parents to implement the following:

  • Develop Reading schemes such as guided reading, reading groups, buddy reading etc
  • Target individual students needs (differentiated learning)
  • Target areas for further practice, and reading skills that need reinforcing
  • Provide self learning and reading opportunities by having leveled reading resources in the home and classrooms.
  • Develop a reading awareness for students. allowing them to choose their own materials, at their own reading levels.
  • Increase confidence in students as they see their needs being met and being taught at instructional rather than frustration levels of English.

In third grade reading levels start to play an increasing level of importance. Students at this age will be starting to progress at different speeds, even more pronounced that in grade 2. This has the potential to create large differences in abilities and reading levels in classrooms.

Being able to address those differences in an effective, time saving and thought out manner is going to have a knock on effect on more than just grades. Classroom management should become easier as students are given reading materials and tasks appropriate to them and their needs and requirements.

Although the holistic benefits of both knowing and incorporating reading levels in to lessons are many. In todays educational environments grades and results are of course still vitally important.

Just to show some examples of this, rather than just tell you about it. I have a REAL leveling information sheet for a 3rd grade class below. This shows their reading level at the beginning of the year and their reading level at the end of the year.

You can click on the image to make it larger…. I have changed their names for privacy. (I did have some strange names in my classes but I never had anyone named strawberry 😉 … I did however have a shark boy!

Grade 3 Reading Levels Examples

You can see, even with just a cursory glance, the huge improvements this 3rd grade class made throughout the school year. Even if they were among lower level readers at the beginning they improved dramatically buy the end of the year.

The higher levels may have less dramatic ( but still impressive) improvement mainly as their general English lessons are not challenging enough, but also the higher the level of English the slower, relatively speaking, the progress.

What are the Different Leveled Reading Programmes

There are numerous different leveled reading programs that although using different grading systems, all follow a simple enough premise. Books, and reading material, in all systems are written with increasing difficulty, word count and phonics as each level progresses.

We have included an image below ( from REAL) of some of the levelled reading systems and how they compare to each other ( to help with book purchases if needed).

Many Guided reading publishers have developed their own systems as well.

Other Grade Reading Levels

We have a collection of articles on other grade reading levels below.

Other Grades Average Reading Levels.

We have a selection of articles on reading level expectations for different grades below.

Kindergarten Reading LevelsGrade 1 Reading levelsGrade 2 Reading levels
Grade 3 Reading levelsGrade 4 Reading LevelsGrade 5 Reading levels

What is the Difference between Instructional, Frustration and Independent Reading levels.

We include this information in all our levelled reading articles.

What is an Instructional Reading Level?

Instructional Reading level is the reading level directly below independent. Students should be able to comprehend and decode upwards of 80% of the text at an instructional level. This level can vary between students and also between subjects as students have interest and motivators that differ.

What is an Independent Reading Level?

An independent reading level is a level of reading ability that allows students to read texts without assistance from teachers or parents. When reading this level of text students will be able to decode over 90% of words and answer increasingly complex comprehension questions independently.

What is a Frustration Reading Level?

Frustration level reading can be defined as text that are to complex for a students current reading level. Texts at this level will not help progress students to higher levels, conversely attempting to read at this level will demotivate students and hinder their development of reading skills.

In 3nd grade, as well as every English classroom, reading lesson and homes teachers and parents should aim at using an instructional reading level. This enables students to comprehend and therefore engage with texts with minimal assistance, and gives them the motivation to see they are doing well, but still have the support and guidance of teachers and parents.

Guided reading, for which we have many articles and resources, is an excellent way of introducing text at this levels to small groups of 3rd graders.

In fact is it very beneficial to continue guided reading at this stage as students have matured and are becoming more independent. Check out the links to know more. We have an article here on what age you can start teaching guided reading. as long as you know the 3rd grade reading levels, then this can be done in any school.

How to read bedtime stories, what reading level should a second grader be at

What 3rd Graders Learn Throughout the Year.

As we mentioned above a third grader can be reading from about reading level 12 to level 25. However please don’t worry if your students or children are below this, or be to confident if they are above this.

Children will develop in their own time, and though we can help and guide them we should not push them to the point where learning , reading or any other activity becomes a chore. Keep reading fun, directed and instructional and your children and students will progress just fine.

We have a table below highlighting what the reading aims are for Grade 3. However, the TLDR version is simple: Keep them interested, develop a culture of reading, and concentrate on discovering any gaps in knowledge with levelled reading so you can target these issues.

The next section covers what skills they will learn to help them improve their reading levels through out the third grade.

Note: All children develop at very different speeds, and different learning environments will have an impact. If English is a second language, or if there is little exposure to English, or if English is seldom used outside the classroom, all will play a part.

Be assured that if you can get your hands on a levelling set or download one and get an idea of the approximate levels of your children or students, you will be able to cater for the needs in a way that is accessible and instructional to their correct levels!

Targeting in this way will help that development progress much quicker, especially in third grade when they are learning and exploring their own interests. Provide them will leveled materials and this becomes much more effective.

What Reading Skills They Will Learn in Third Grade

3rd grade reading levels

We mentioned in our What level should a second grader be at article, that as students get older then emphasis shifts from learning to read to reading to learn and comprehension, and higher order / critical skills start to come in to play.

In third grade, for the more advanced students especially, but for all students if in a native classroom, these higher order and critical thinking skills can be incorporated and introduced into lessons and levelled reading sessions where appropriate.

These critical thinking and reading skills are cross curricular and are so important to their future learning, yet almost criminally overlooked in the day to day bustle of classrooms. We have a workbook designed solely to help develop these skills which you can check out on the link below.

Another skill that is taught in third grade, or even earlier if feasible is the ability to judge which books are suitable for them and their reading level. This becomes more important in third grade as they learn where their interests are start to seek out reading material for themselves. It helps them judge which books are too easy and which are too difficult.

Skills LearnedResources to Help
Read for fun and improve fluencyReading Grade Three Leveled Texts Set 2 and set 3
Development of their own reading skills, and
become more aware how to use them with less prompting.
Using Syllables and Y as a Vowel Worksheets
Stronger command of phonics, and phonetic patternsVowel Digraph Worksheets
Recognition of syllables, and multiple syllable wordsUsing Syllables
Be familiar with different text types, fiction, non fiction, poetry etc. Simple Poetry Reading
Start to develop critical thinking skills that can be applied to reading and in wider contextsReading Skills Workbook

In third grade Vowels taking the form of digraph and diphthongs will be formally taught and words in 3rd grade reading material will increasingly contain them.

Longer and more complex words will be introduced with multiple syllables are in 3rd grade reading level material.

Tenses and the grammar surrounding tenses will have been introduced in the later stages of grade 2. In grade three there will be an introduction to the other tenses. We have worksheets for Future, Present and Past here for free download.

Sentences and constructing more complex sentences will become more important in 3rd grade reading levels. Reading materials will include more complex versions and teachers and parents can use reading levels to gain appropriate levels of text for their students and children.

We have some on the site for free, and in addition we also have sentence making and sentence scramble worksheets as well (link)

However some of the best ways to engage 3nd grade readers is through online games. By this time they will have become aware of tablets and phones being help in parents and siblings hands. Leveled books are one way to improve 3rd grade reading levels but its not the only tool in the box.

We have articles on some of the best online games, and have a page that has all the ones we make as well. These are free to play and very popular and certainly add motivation to your lessons! They are suitable across a wide ranger of reading levels.

Phonics and Reading Workbook Bundle

What Can Teachers Do To Improve 3rd Grade Reading Levels

Teachers can improve 3rd grade reading levels by creating a love of reading in classrooms and place great emphasis in reading both in formal lessons but also in free time.

  • Have a selection of levelled reading material suitable for 3rd graders covering fiction and NON fiction texts.
  • Make sure there is a mix of text types and text subjects. So that many interests are covered
  • Try to have a corner in the classroom for quiet reading, to be used at recess and during lessons / station activities.
  • Mix up ways of presenting resources, online games, worksheets readers etc.
  • Ask 3rd grade students to explore the deeper meanings of stories, the feelings and empathy they may have. Ask them what they would do, or why they think characters act the way they do.
  • Display reading strategies and phonics strategies on walls for students to reference. ( also put in their day books or on desks)
  • Introduce or develop 3rd grader knowledge of higher reading comprehension skills ( we have resources for this here)
  • Run Guided reading lessons. (you can get information on this here)

What Language Will 3rd Grade Reading Level Books Contain?

Third grade reading level book, especially at the higher end of the lvels, will start to catian much more complext lanague.

  • Language contained in reading resources will move from two syllables maximum to 3 and 4 syllable words in reading books of this level. Topics will become more complex, and use of adjectives will be more detailed.
  • Synonyms will be commonly used and prefixes / suffixes and reported speech will also be more regularly sighted.
  • There will be a mix of fiction and non fiction, and the comprehension questions will become more detailed.
  • There will be the eliciting of opinion with answers. there will be less ”what color is the ball and more how do you think they feel type questions in 3rd grade.
  • The important thing, and often forgot, is that the levels of the books remain the same. It may be that a first, second or third grader is reading them. There are not set books for different grades, there are books for different reading levels.

Our reading materials include 3 to 5 questions to help with this. These can be asked verbally or they can complete them as a worksheet post reading.

Quick Tips to help Reading in 3rd grade

This is taken from our Reading for first grade article but applies across all grades.

  1. Break down every word into individual letters. If there’s a combination (sh, th, ough), separate it into its own chunk. This starts to introduce syllables to students.
  2. Focus on words that they already know how to say. If they’re familiar with the word, they’ll be able to use contextual clues to figure out how to read it.
  3. Don’t study for too long. Short 15-minute study sessions hold their interest long enough to prevent reading from becoming a boring chore. Little and often is better.
  4. Use the resources from school and online to supplement these skills. you can access using the following links the 1000s of reading resources on our site for free and premium downloads.
7 Reading Strategy Worksheets

How Can Parents Help Their Second Grader Develop a Love for Reading?

3rd grade reading levels

Parents, especially at first and second grade, play a vital role in helping your child become interested in reading. Story telling, appropriate reading resources and books in the house will all help.

In third grade your little reader will be becoming more independent, they grow up so quickly, so allowing them time to read independently and for enjoyment is one of the best things you can do.
Not every book needs teaching, not everything is a teachable moment, sometimes we all just need a little time to enjoy a good book

3rd grade reading levels

Here’s a list of ways that you can help your third grader develop a love for reading: It is similar to the second and first grade advice:

The books may change but the mechanics of reading levelled books do not.

  • Find reading material that they’re interested in. For example, if they love dinosaurs or space , choose those books over anything else. Also allow them to choose as well. It’s not the concept that matters; It’s the words found throughout the reading that makes a big difference. We have some leveled reading material aimed at young learners here. However sites like Starfall offer online stories that may help as well.
  • Offer incentives for their reading. Although the aim is to have them choose to read for fun all things start slowly and build momentum. If you can associate reading with enjoyment and reward (extrinsic in the first place) then they will start to enjoy reading and learning for its own merits. Stickers, days out, pencils all work well here.
  • Picture books can keep your child’s interest . If you stop reading after 15 to 20 minutes, they’ll be begging to jump back into the material. Its great bonding time as well. Having book quizzes you have read together is a great motivator for third grader as well.
  • Use alternative texts, screen magazines etc. Children can be introduced to different text types to show there are reading opportunities everywhere. Even subtitles on their favorite movies with each of you doing a voice is a great reading activity.
  • Ask what your children are covering in school. If you ask their teachers they will be happy to share and offer advice on how to help your third grader progress as well as they can.
  • Take a look at using online games to diversify how you introduce learning and reading.
  • Lead by example, find some time each day to sit down with a book and just read, your child will learn by watching.

Children are always seeking out new opportunities to learn. Parents can simply guide them to make sure there is a little structure to their learning.

Let them choose their books but discuss with the school which level your children are to make sure it is useful for motivation for sure, but also that it is of a level where they ca understand most of it.

Using their interests to guide their reading means they are learning about topics they like and improving their reading. As they progress so with their reading levels, providing you have started them at a reasonable 3rd grade reading level book.


We have covered the average 3rd grade reading levels in native classrooms, of course there will be some difference in ESL or other classrooms. They key takeaway from all of this is that children will progress at their own speed. you can help them on their reading journey but you shouldn’t force them.

Make sure they have access to reading materials at their level, encourage them to put into use their phonics skills and comprehension skills they have learn in previous years and aim at their interests.

If you manage to achieve these things above then their ability and interest levels will only go up as they read more and more.

Reading should be a joy not a chore.

Here’s a quick recap of the post:

  • 3rd grade reading levels typically fall between a 12 to 25 reading level.
  • Focus on reading for fun, comprehension skills and appropriate levelled reading material.
  • Follow their interests and start to let them recognize text difficultly. Taking ownership allows them to develop their own good reading habits.
  • Use additional resources and activities to engage and inspire them


About Making English Funn

Hi I’m Marc. A teacher of over 15 years, English, General Studies and Outdoor Education. Thought it was about time to sharing both what I have learnt during that time and the resources I have put together. On this site we aim to teach the theory and share our thoughts, but also go that one step further and give you access to the hard resources you need for your class or for you children

I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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