My oldest daughter began reading in kindergarten. Once she caught onto it, she ran with it. In first grade, her reading level was that of a third grader. In second, it was higher--4th or 5th grade. This year, her reading is at a 5th or 6th grade reading level. Last year, her reading ability was higher than her comprehension, but this year it has caught up.
I use the QRI-II to test my children for both reading and for comprehension. It was very interesting to see the difference between the two skills in my daughters skils over the past three years. When I first realized how high her reading level was, I wanted her to read more challenging books. This often meant reading books without pictures and with smaller font, which my daughter resisted. Her resistance caused me step back and relax. I was concerned that she didn't want to read books without pictures so one day I posted my concern on facebook. Several friends encouraged me to relax--that she would gradually choose to read books without pictures on her own.
I took their advice. I didn't press her to read hard chapter books without pictures. What I most desire for her is that she would enjoy reading good books. That's key for me. I really want her to enjoy "good" books that are well written and not just read junk. She has gradually read books with less pictures and harder words.
One of the trickiest things for me has been to find good, solid books for her to read since her reading level is high but her maturity level low. I don't want to expose her to ideas and morals that she's not ready to process yet.
There are several resources that I looked to for suggestions. Each of these curriculum companies have literature lists for their curriculum that I've made selections from.
Sonlight The reader lists are actually literature lists.
Veritas Press Many of their selections are far above grade level, though.
Ambleside Online: Many friends have used this, though I haven't.
Heart of Dakota You have to search through their site, but they list titles for each of their levels for both boy interests and girl interests.
My daughter and I put together a list this morning of her favorite books that she's read in the past year. These books are not in any particular order.
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate di Camillo
B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood
Lady Lollipop by Dick King-Smith
Dick King-Smith is one of our favorite authors. I highly recommend all of his books we've read. Funny Frank, Babe, Charlie Muffin's Miracle Mouse, A Mouse Called Wolf, and others
Fredle by Cynthia Voigt This is a higher reading level and a thicker book appropriate for advanced readers.
Betsy Goes to School
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald. I grew up with these books (there's 4 in the series) and Autumn loves them too.
Imagination Station Adventures in Odyssey book series (identical to the Magic Treehouse books, but Christian)
The Ordinary Princess
Classic Starts--these are easier than the classics, but my daughter just enjoys reading them. She's read the Anne of Green Gables and King Arthur books.
Courage of Sarah Noble
Rackety Packety House--the best edition is the new one illustrated by Wendy Halperin
Little House in the Big Woods, on the prairie, and on the banks of plum creek. Autumn specifically said she wasn't crazy about Farmer Boy because she's a girl.
Mercy Watson Stories(great for 1st/2nd grade) They're easier chapter books, but they're just silly fun
The Buddy Files (similar grade level) These are a good transition to pictureless chapter books. The text is easy to kids can understand them without pictures to aid them.
The Littles books
Betsy, Tacy, and Tib
Tomie de Paola's 26 Fairmount Ave. series
The Bobbsey Twins (the old series)
The Boxcar Children
Magic Treehouse Research Guides
Magic Treehouse #1-27
Old Value Tales books
Many of these books are of a reading level lower than what my daughter's is, but she enjoys reading them and they aren't too low. These books are good, fun stories. Some are at her grade level and some are just a little below. Others are really easy for her, but that's okay. Isn't that the way all of us read? Typically, I let her pick one book and then I pick one book. I do have a say in all the books she reads, but I pick harder ones for my choices and she typically picks easier ones.
There are some books noticeably missing from our list. One of those is any of the American Girl Books. A friend commented to me two years ago that she found that it was always a man who was the bad guy in the books. Autumn simply hasn't been drawn to any of these books. It has also been tricky to find her good books because she is not a big fan of mysteries. There are many good mystery series that children can deeply enjoy, but they aren't on our list. For example, The Boxcar Children has quite a few books in the series, but Autumn has only read numbers 1 and 2. For younger children, Nate the Great and Cam Jansen are well loved series, but Autumn only read a few of them since both are mystery series.
There were two books I read that really helped me get a good perspective on reading. The first is Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt. Read the updated edition not the older one. There are wonderful book lists in the book. The second book is Honey for a Teen's Heart, also by Gladys Hunt. In this book, she again discusses reading (including a great discussion about Harry Potter). Then, she gives book lists that not only list the reading level, but also the maturity level for books. She also gives a description of authors' world views which is very helpful in picking books and discussing the morals of books with your children.
Speaking of reading, each of my children are heading to their beds. Their patience is all short with one another right at the moment, so I thought it would be a good break...
If you have any reading suggestions to add to this list, please let me know!