professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Watch and Learn

Yesterday I read yet another blog post about levels, in particular leveling books. The author wavered between wanting levels to help guide kids to books appropriate for them (and I guess I missed the part of the reading level numbers and Lexile scores where "appropriate" was measured) and not wanting kids to be branded by levels.

After I read this post, I hosted three educators who came to the house to pick up books I had weeded, about 300-400. One of the educators brought her 10 year old granddaughter with her. She squealed when she saw the stack of graphic novels (I had sorted books into stacks to make "shopping" easier). She grabbed the whole stack, kicked off her shoes, and stretched out on the couch to begin reading. In an hour, she had finished two of the books. One was the latest BabyMouse. Turns out she loves BabyMouse as much as I do. The other was a GN adaptation of Babysitter's Club. She had never read a traditional BSC book and was thrilled to find something new to read, a new series to keep her occupied for a long time. She also picked up The Golden Compass GN, Lucy and Andy Neanderthal, HiLo, and a few others. These books range quite a bit. But the levels and lexiles did not matter to this reader.

And they don't matter to kids who will read a book that is "too easy" or "too tough" as well as the just right books (thanks, Kylene for the Goldilocks analogy). It did not matter to one of my 8th graders who struggled with reading (2.0 was the test measurement when he arrived in my class). He carried a Stephen King novel all year, reading a handful of pages a day, but determined to read the book. It spoke to him (as King does to me), and the level did not matter. And they did not matter to other 8th graders when the newest title in the Bunnicula series pubbed. I had the entire set. Strapping football players would sneak them out in their backpacks. "I've gotta see what happens to Chester and Harold," they told me. They read the first books as intermediate students, but wanted to keep reading them.

If I were to have used levels and lexiles to organize my classroom library, I am not sure how widely my kids would have read. Worse I imagine, if levels and lexiles were marked on the books or some program limited kids to their ZPD, perhaps some of the kids who devoured books might have been a bit more "reluctant" in a different way.

Other more eloquent voices have written about this. Check out Kylene Beers and Donalyn Miller posts: and

For my own take, the idea that a set of numbers and/or letters can ever measure an AUDIENCE for a book is limiting and, quite frankly, ridiculous. Want to know if a book is "appropriate" for your readers? I suggest taking some time this summer reading as widely as you can. And then I urge you to support kids as they try to determine on their own which books are appropriate and why. Consider this: have you ever approached a person in a bookstore and informed them that the book they were considering for purchase was not at their level or lexile? "I'm sorry, ma'am, but you are going to have to put down that bestseller. It is a 5.6 level, and you are obviously more like a 12.0?" I would hope that woman might wither you with her disdain.

I know kids are different. I get it. But this idea of leveling, labeling, lexiling sometimes makes me think of the phrase "a little pregnant." Look at how Accelerated Reader moved from being simply a tool to track the titles of books kids were reading from year to year to the kudzu of reading programs. Look at what happens when we commodify anything.

BTW, my spell check keeps changing Lexile and lexiles to Exile and exiles. Coincidence? I thin not.
Tags: idiocy, levels, lexiles
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