[See update at the end of this post]
One of the challenges I have faced when homeschooling my children is ensuring that I am giving them age and grade appropriate materials. While I love the McGuffey readers, they do not come labelled with a suggested reading level on them. As a result, I searched out information on the suggested grade levels and here is what I found:
The Original McGuffey’s Eclectic First Reader: Ages 7-9, Grades 2-4
The Original McGuffey’s Eclectic Second Reader: Ages 8-10, Grades 3-5
The Original McGuffey’s Eclectic Third Reader: Ages 11-13, Grades 6-8
The Original McGuffey’s Eclectic Fourth Reader: Ages 14-18, Grades 9-12
Their product descriptions differ somewhat. For example, the description for the Eclectic Third Reader states,
The four readers do NOT correspond to the first four grades, but rather are based on reading skill levels. For example, the first three books are to be used in early elementary grades. The Second Reader is generally used for upper elementary grades, the Third Reader for intermediate grades 7-9, and the Fourth Reader is an aggressive high school and college reader…After mastering this [ie. The Third Reader], the student is reading better than many high school students.
I guess the lesson to be drawn from this is that the grade recommendations are only recommendations and it is the child’s reading ability that determines which reader to use at which time.
Incidentally, both of my older children finished the Third Reader by the end of Grade 7 (by age, not by actual year they read the book). However, although they started the Fourth Reader in Grade 8, they found it too difficult to make it all the way through. I tested the reading level of the Fourth Reader using the Flesch-Kincaid scale on this online readability index calculator and that scale said the reading selections in the book were from Grade 9 to Grade 18 or so. Apparently 10-12-year-olds could handle this material in the late 1800’s.
Update April 2015: Since I wrote this post, I have noticed that Mott Media (publishers of the original McGuffey’s texts) has posted information on the suggested grades for each reader. Their guidelines are as folllows:
Eclectic Primer and Pictorial Eclectic Primer: Grades 1-2
Eclectic First Reader: Grades 2-3
Eclectic Second Reader: Grades 3-5
Eclectic Third Reader: Grades 6-8
Eclectic Fourth Reader: Grades 9-12 (can also be used with younger advanced readers)