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29 March 2014 @ 01:44 pm
Across the Pond  
A tweet caused me to read this post from SPIKED!, a British publication. Here is the link to the article: http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/challenging-children-to-read-better/14776#disqus_thread. The piece is entitled CHALLENGING CHILDREN TO READ BETTER. Before you head off to see the article, stop for a moment and think about what it is you expect to read at this URL. Now brace yourselves because it is NOT as advertised.

What we have here is familiar to those of us fighting the lexile and level wars on this side of the pond. An author is decrying the fact that kids are opting to read easier books. She defines "easy" solely by grade level. That is Fatal Flaw #1. Take a look at these books and arrange them by what you think the grade levels are from easiest (lowest) to most difficult (highest):


MAUS
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY
NIGHTJOHN
GOING BOVINE
FLORA AND ULYSSES
A DAY NO PIGS WOUD DIE
THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO
DIVERGENT
NIGHT
THE HUNGER GAMES
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN T THE NIGHTTIME
THE HANDMAID'S TALE
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
IN DARKNESS

Guess what? These ARE in order of readability from 3.2 (MAUS) to 5.6 (IN DARKNESS). Basically, there is only a 2 year span here among all of these books. Hence Fatal Flaw #1

Fatal Flaw #2 is denigrating a reader-centered approach to books and reading. The criticism of World Book Day as just another chance to play dress up is utterly insulting. And to dismiss the importance of the reader in this TRANSACTION is to reduce reading to the four corners of the text, flat words on a flat page.

Fatal Flaw #3: how the author elects to end her piece. Basically, here the author asserts this: "Sometimes the pleasure doesn’t come from the immediate experience of reading at all, but from thoughts that linger long after the book has been finished. "
So, who would argue against that? I think that the level of a book has very little to do with what lingers after the reading has been completed. Take MAUS for instance or even CATCH-22 (7.2 reading level). These are books that linger. So do many books, some at low levels and some not so much. But there is nothing that lingers for me from Robinson Crusoe (12.3) or Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly (really, Bill, 8.4, aren't you writing for adults?).

I guess the consolation is that this condescending treatment of books and reading is also plaguing kids overseas. That is cold comfort when I consider how this might play out. I have folks tell me horror stories all the time about their own kids being told they cannot read a book because it is not in their ZPD or lexile or on an approved list. How do we know that this particular book might not be the gateway book, the touchstone book, the perfect book right now?
 
 
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