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12 March 2014 @ 11:06 am
Judging books  
The old saw is, "Never judge a book by its cover." I think that adage should be, "Never judge a book by its scores." I love this article from The Washington Post by Valerie Strauss: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/11/01/common-core-how-are-books-judged/. Strauss points out the concepts behind Lexiles and levels and how they fail can and DO fail to find the right book for the right reader at the right time (BSP, subtitle for my book MAKING THE MATCH).

What is instructive here is not just the article itself. Take a look at the comments underneath the article where Strauss is taken to task for "misunderstanding" AR or Lexiles. It is a matter of the, "but, but but," excuse. I have heard it for years. But the ATOS score is one measure. AR also has a "level" for audience. It is a nice little sleight of hand, Wizard of Oz-ish moment: pay no attention to the RL (reading level); it is about the IL (interest level). Don't just select a book because it is in the Lexile band for the grade level, use this convoluted and complicated method (the triangle: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/standard-10-range-quality-complexity/measuring-text-complexity-three-factors/). And there same is true for those pesky Exemplar Texts. We do NOT have to limit ourselves to these books, but look at the process of adding other texts and then be truthful: how much time is there to create a newer, better, wider, booklist?

So, how should we judge a book? I admit I am still a judge by the cover person when it comes to selecting books to go on the top of the TBR stack. I use author, book buzz, friends' recommendations, reviews, and all of the other factors kids do. However, as I am reading the book, I have a very different set of filters through which the book passes. If I am reading it for a selection or award committee, I am reading with criteria in mind. I grow weary sometimes of folks who insist Book A or Book B is the next Newbery. I think we all do read a book and are bowled over by it and hope it gets noticed by the committee. But, for me at least, those books are few and far between. I might even think a book worthy but know that I am not reading as widely as the committee is, so simply wait for the announcements. This year, I was surprised by how many of the winners I HAD read already. There were a handful, though, that have been revelations to me as I read to catch up on those overlooked books. But generally I am reading for another purpose. What does that judging look like?

If I am reading it outside of those parameters, I am constantly thinking about which kid gets this book when I am done. Who do I hand it off to? Who is the ideal audience? How will I make sure a kid finds this book? What can I do to make sure the right kid finds it at the right time? Most of my reading this year is for just that purpose. I am reading to make suggestions, to connect books, to take a book from my hand and place it in the hand of another reader. That is why 40 envelopes were mailed last week to 40 folks who filled out a form for my book give away. That is why there are bags of books in my hallway waiting for my next workshop where I will give them all away, where they will find other homes, other hands, other readers. Where someone else will do the judging.

I think maybe the next post should be evaluating books...
 
 
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