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Reading and Study Review Levels

Reading Levels     Study Review Levels     Advice for Making Reading Selections    

The books in the Heritage History library are divided into three categories based on difficulty, roughly corresponding to upper grammar school, middle school, and high school reading abilities. However, there are only two "Study Review" levels associated with Academy courses and they each encompass two reading levels. Our Introductory, Level I courses are intended for fifth through seventh grade students so their recommended reading lists include both 'Elementary' and 'Intermediate' books. Level II courses were designed for slightly more advanced students so their default reading assignments include both 'Intermediate' and 'Advanced' books. The following diagram illustrates this relationship.

Reading Levels
Elementary
Green links indicate books written at a 'chapter-book' reading level. Most are short (less than 100 pages) and cover a single topic. Elementary books include a higher percentage of folk tales, legends, simplified literature and historical fiction than other categories. ~3rd-5th grade.
Intermediate
Brown links indicate books written for a middle school audience. Most are significantly longer than elementary books, but not overly detailed. Many comprehensive histories, short biographies, and military histories are written for intermediate readers. ~6th-9th grade.
Advanced
Red links indicate books written for a college prep high school or young adult audience. Most 'advanced' books assume the reader is already familiar with the subject civilization so they include more details than introductory histories. A high school level vocabulary is expected and most books are over 200 pages. ~10th grade and above.

It is important to remember there are wide variations in reading ability among students and the grade levels listed above are only guidelines. It is also true that students read fiction more proficiently than they do non-fiction and that many will retain information much better if they are interested in the topic. More factors to consider when making reading selections for students are listed below.

Study Review Levels

Each academy course is associated with a set of multiple choice study questions based on 'core' reading assignments. Study Questions are organized by historical era so that students can review questions for each unit as they complete the assigned reading.

Level I (Introductory)
Level I study questions cover the most fundamental facts associated with each historical division. Most of the questions are derived from intermediate-level 'core' histories and are intended for introductory students. There are 250-350 Level I study questions for each academy course, divided into eight to ten study units. Level I is recommended for 5th through 7th grade students, but provides a good introduction at any age.
Level II (Challenge)
Level II study questions are also derived from the intermediate comprehensive histories, but they are likely to require a closer reading of the material with more attention to detail. They are intended for motivated students who find Level I testing too easy. Level II study questions are more challenging than the Level I and they reference the entire bank of over 500 study questions. Recommended for motivated students, middle school or above.

Academy courses default to Level I, but students can upgrade at any time if they would prefer more challenging questions. We expect most active users of the Heritage Academy to be studying at either Level I or Level II but Core Reading recommendations for young readers (Y) and college prep (C) students are also provided.

Advice for Making Reading Selections

Some students take a real interest in history at a young age and read far beyond their expected grade level. For such students, Heritage History’s vast collection of Intermediate and Advanced histories is a treasure trove waiting to be explored. Others students take longer to mature and do better with less challenging fare. The Heritage History library has plenty of books that are appealing to students of all abilities and many of our Elementary histories are enjoyable for students who are well beyond their grammar school years. But all students learn best from books that engage their interest and suit their abilities. So instead of following a grade-level program we recommend that students select books that they can read and comprehend easily regardless of their age or grade level.

We have been learning along with our own children for seventeen years and teaching history to homeschoolers for eleven years. Heritage History was created for our own students and we are hopeful that our experience can be useful to other families who are dedicated to independent learning. The following points may be helpful in helping to decide how to get the most out of Heritage History resources.

  • History should not be a difficult subject
    Many parents want to challenge their children and make sure they "get ahead" or don't "fall behind". The problem with encouraging students to read difficult non-fiction is that most students fail to retain information that is beyond their grasp. They may read "challenging" histories but will neither remember nor understand them. There are plenty of excellent histories at every ability level and students retain more information when they read histories that hold their interest.
  • Comprehensive histories are not the whole story
    Comprehensive 'core' histories provide an important overview of a time period or civilization, but it is essential that students read biographies, folklore, hero stories, and adapted literature as well. These supplementary texts often provide a much more vivid insight into a time period because they delve into details and personalities that are left out of more comprehensive histories.

  • Some students are late-bloomers
    Children develop key facilities including reading, memorization, and analytical ability at very different ages. If your student is not reading fluently, you can read-aloud or delay history altogether until they are ready. If your student can read but not master details, be patient and continue to expose them to our easiest texts until they are ready to move on without a struggle. Many late readers become good students in their own time and there is no reason to rush history before a student is ready to enjoy it.
  • Study Questions are Optional
    Students vary in how fluently they read, but also in how much information they retain. Some students have excellent memories at a young age while others have difficulty recalling details well into their middle school years. The study questions are intended to be a useful tool for students who enjoy review or are competitive about acquiring knowledge. But if your child struggles with review sessions or is not able to earn at least 'bronze' medals (65%) after making a serious effort he is probably not ready for study questions. You may want to simplify his reading assignments or delay online review for a year. We generally don't recommend study questions for students younger than 5th grade and putting off comprehension testing until middle school is not a problem.
  • Individual interests should be indulged
    All students need to be assigned 'core' reading, but it is worth the effort to customize supplemental assignments in order to appeal to students' natural interests. Many boys, for example, are especially interested in warfare and will willingly read military histories that are far above grade level without special prodding. In situations where students are individually motivated to pursue special interests or favorite authors, concerns about "reading level" are secondary.
  • Diversions and sideroads can be delightful
    Systematic history has always been an important part of our curriculum, but ad hoc history is just as worthwhile. We often pursue historical topics that come up by way of literature, activities, or other subjects. It is perfectly commendable to read a few books about Peter the Great or the Civil War during "Roman Year" or African exploration during "British Middle Ages". Don't try too hard to keep history reading 'on task' — it's everywhere.
  • Abiding Interest is more important than achievement
    History is not rocket science. It can be studied at many levels and it was never intended to become the exclusive domain of eggheads or intellectuals. The best measure of a successful history eduction is not how much history a student learns during their school years, but rather how much they desire to continue learning. The ultimate goal of a great history education is the capacity to enjoy the subject and no list of facts learned or names memorized is worth making history a drudge.

We try to encourage families to approach history as an enjoyable adventure rather than a perfunctory checklist. Unfortunately many parents who slogged through twelve years of "social studies" in public schools (as we did) have a very limited view of history and have difficulty seeing it as anything other than a chore. Our best advice for parents who disliked history is to give it another chance. It is never too late to study history and learning along with one's children (as we have) can open up fascinating new perspectives on all things.