I think about my own reading (and I guess mine should be well above 1300, right?) and what the limits might be if I were only permitted to reading within my band. Every time I go to the web site for Lexiles to do a search, I am amazed. This time I asked for fiction about animals for someone reading in the 1100-1300 range. The titles given me were not all fiction for a start. There were quite a few nonfiction titles. Some of them surprised me also as they were books I have recommended for middle school and even younger kids (like EXTREME ANIMALS). And there were some whose ties to animals was not immediately obvious (BODIES FROM THE BOG, THE RIDDLE OF THE ROSETTA STONE for instance). And I loved that THE TRUTH ABOUT UNICORNS came up in the list of recommendations.
I come back to this whole idea of lexiles and levels after taking part in an animated discussion with my PLN on Twitter the other day over the decision of a book club company to provide flyers with lexiles and levels attached to the order forms. The comany directed me to their FAQs about why they have elected to do this. I get that CCSS is ruling what so many publishers and companies are doing. I understand the business element here. But when a company buys into such a flawed system, they are promulgating the flaws, the drawbacks, the limitations.
Companies cannot help select books for kids. Telling parents and teachers otherwise causes HARM or at least makes the potential for harm more immediate. Imagine plugging in the bands and printing out a list from which kids can select books for reading. And that is exactly the scenario that will play out if book clubs and publishers continue to buy into the debacle that is lexile. I will say it once again: a book is a work of art. There is no way a program can measure adequately or accurately a work of art. All it can do is count. That is akin to taking a painting using a pointillist approach and ranking it using the variable of how many dots (points) comprise the painting. Or taking a musical composition and ranking it using the number of notes within it as a measure of its worth.
We need to stop using these formulae to determine where a book belongs. We need to read the book ourselves and make some determinations. As I read a book, I am building a mental list of the folks I know who will love that book. I ask if this is one for Donalyn or Paul or Katherine ro Natalie or Karin ro Lois. I do NOT seek out the lexile or level and decide using a number. I decide based on what I know about the READER.
So, let us raise our voices in unison, let us be a choir that sings the praises of the right book in the right reader's hands. Let us be the choir that rings out a chorus of FREADOM!