As I walked the exhibits of the International Literacy Association this week, there was the usual enormous booth space of Reading Renaissance, aka Accelerated Reader. It has had a prominent display at conferences for years, and its appearance always causes me to wince and then grumble. But I go way beyond wincing and grumbling when I see educators (teachers and librarians) discussing the merits of AR on social media. Ditto discussions of Lexiles and levels. There is no neutral position here, folks. If we want kids to become lifelong readers, levels and lexiles and tests and other programmed approaches need to go the way of the early primers (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_England_Primer). Those early "books" gave way to the basal texts (See Spot run! Run, Spot, run!). I can still hear Mem Fox reading from a basal with "expression" while the audience guffawed at how inauthentic the language was.
Lexiles and levels and tests narrow choices for readers. I think of them in the same way I do censorship of other means. They tell kids, "Sorry, you can't read that. It is not on your level." I wonder what would happen if I were to do that in a library or bookstore to an adult. I suspect it would not be pretty. Choice matters. Choice is crucial. There is no, "well, you can select from this shelf," when it comes to choice. And we, as educators, need not be neutral in this. We need to take a stand. Know the research. Fight against the censorship that results when we allow a program to narrow the choices for readers.
I am getting ready to board a plane back home. I have books with me that are, I am certain, below my RL and Lexile. And I will most definitely be taking a test on them. I will, however, pass them along to other readers. I will talk about them to anyone who will listen. And I will celebrate the FREADOM TO READ.