A teacher at my school came to me this morning looking for book suggestions for his 2nd grade daughter. Her Lexile level is 755, and she has to read books that are 655-855 in order to earn points for them. I know we have debated the merits of these types of assignments before, but the bottom line is that he wants her to be able to get credit for the books she's reading at home.
I did an Advanced Search on lexile.com. Here are some of the books recommended. I include 10 titles here though the web site had more than a thousand.
LOST CITY OF FEAR series by McHale
GATHERING OF GARGOYLES
BAD KITTY GETS A BATH
BERENSTIN BEARS AND THE DRESS CODE
NOT SO JOLLY ROGER
ALL THOSE SECRETS OF THE WORLD
A few observations:
1. the books I listed above (and it took me about 20 minutes to scan through a couple hundred titles) include picture books, series books, early chapter books, and novels. There were some nonfiction titles in the list but many of them were OP.
2. if I am the librarian in a school of 1200 kids (not that unusual here), and I need to locate books at lexile range and IN my collection (or at least not OP so I might order some), I can handle about 2 requests per class period. Let's say 7 periods a day=14 kids a day X 5 days a week=60 kids per week. That means I can get around to the 1200 kids in 20 weeks. Do the math. This is daunting to say the least (and not the best use of the time of your librarian).
3. At least two of the books are more than likely NOT appropriate: WHITE FANG, ROBISON CRUSOE will not really appeal to most 3rd grade girls. I fear the picture books: ALL THOSE SECRETS OF THE WORLD, UGLY DUCKLING (Pinkney version) will be rejected by a 3rd grader who might not want to be seen checking out picture books.
But here is the real kicker as far as I am concerned: the child will not receive credit for her pleasure reading unless the books are within her designated lexile range. As a parent, I would SO be up at the school requesting a conference (something that made the residents of the back bedroom cringe). The message is crystal clear: reading does not count unless it is done according to the rules of lexile. I know some will say this is a mis-application of lexiles (and I have heard the same lame argument made abut AR, believe me). But, then someone needs to step in and do a smackdown. And that does not happen (again, personal experience bars this out).
One of the reasons I rant and rave here is to demonstrate that these are not isolated instances of mis-application. This scenario plays out over and over again. Instead of the school librarian taking time for story time or building collections or booktalking, she or he is playing lexile detective. Rather than permitting kids to read what they WANT to read at home, they are being instructed to narrow reading. Instead of teachers sharing developmentally appropriate books (via booktalk and lists and the like), they are relying on some program to measure appropriateness. One of the fallouts we have all seen is the creation of teachers who DO NOT READ. Why? All you need to do is refer to the lists generated lovingly by the wonderful philanthropic people at AR and LEXILE companies.
Bless this librarian who cared enough about her staff and their kids to pose the question to the listserv. Curse the teacher who did not care enough to see a kid as something other than a number.
And now, to return to my reading. I love recommending books. I do NOT rely on measures to do so. I rely on READERS to recommend.