What would happen if:
someone asked Bob Cormier to add some syllables to his sentences in THE CHOCOLATE WAR so that the lexile or reading level would be more appropriate for high school students? I can imagine the conversation. Levelers would point out that the reading level was only 4.5 (lexile is 820), and that simply by adding some more multi-syllabic words, it would be "better."
someone asked Kevin Henkes to dumb down CHRYSANTHEMUM because its 3.3 reading level and 460 lexile put it up into too high a band for young readers. Ditto asking Maurice Sendak to make WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE not quite so out of reach with its 3.4 reading level and 740 lexile.
someone asked Libba Bray to bump up her sentence length for the Printz-winning GOING BOVINE beyond its 4.0 reading level and 680 lexile. Then, give Gary Paulsen a call and suggest NIGHTJOHN be made more appropriate with some longer words so that its readability was not at 3.8 with a 770 lexile.
I refer to this as an absurdity in the title, but really this is more of an atrocity. It is also more proof that attempting to apply formulae to paragraphs and scenes and sentences is not just misguided, it is worse. It limits kids in CHOICE; it prevents educators from using the best possible book. Instead we must be content to share, use, discuss, the "appropriate" book using someone arcane set of numbers. Imagine if doctors were limited in the prescriptions or treatments they could offer...never mind, that is happening as well. Dang!
This race to quantify everything, to determine the suitability of something is short-sighted. I read a piece in the New York Times today about being short-sighted: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/25/books/review/early-reader.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0. Here is the final sentence: "Isn’t it also the case that the promise of the kind of liberal arts education we seem so eager to discount may depend on its being given time to ripen? "
Let authors write. Let readers ripen.