So, I decided to play the Lexile game. I entered that I had a 10 year old in 5th grade who was an average reader and liked mysteries. The search yielded hundreds of titles. I scanned the first 50. 30+ were James Patterson titles (adult as well as teen titles), 10 were from P.C. Cast. Also among the top 50: Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell, David Baldacci, and Harlan Coben.
When I entered data for the teen who likes YA, the first 20 titles were the John Green books plus Life of Pi (listed 4 separate times in hardcover, paperback, eBook, and audio), and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Now I know regular readers of this blog will not be heading to B&N for book recommendations, but what about parents who do not know that Lexiles or any other reading levels are NOT how to select books for kids? What about parents who are have not read the books being recommended?
It is bad enough that MARC records now contain information on Lexiles and other levels (AR, for example), and that some books have been labeled to help kids find their levels and Lexiles more readily (shudder). Now, we are forcing this onto booksellers and publishers. Publishers are working to include levels and standards in their catalogs and sales meetings. This is sort of like the cart driving the horse, right? Letting poor pedagogy (and in some cases, NO pedagogy) dictate how we can locate books, who those books are appropriate for, when books need to be taught, etc. smacks of something less than a democracy. Worse, it denigrates the knowledge of teachers and librarians who actually work with kids day in and day out.
I keep ranting here and inserting myself into bookstore encounters (love helping parents in a bookstore uninvited) because I want to be known as someone who knows where the good books are. I want to do what the title of my first book says: I want to make the match and find the right book for the right reader at the right time. Now, I won't get it right every time, but I will keep trying until I do. What you get with computer driven programs is a list of data points, none of which has anything to do with the authentic reader it purports to be helping.