professornana (professornana) wrote,

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I saw a Facebook post about an app called Clean Reader. Developed by some parents whose precocious child was reading books with problematic content (more about this in a minute), the app purports to clean up that problematic content. Of course, I downloaded the app. And I purchased a book within the app (app is free, but the books must be "purchased" within the app). I will talk about that experience, but I want to go back first to the young child reading above level and finding books with content that was inappropriate.

The two questions I think I receive most frequently both have to do with reading levels. The first question asks me to recommend resources and books for kids reading well below grade level. The concomitant question asks for books for the "gifted" reader. I do not want to be flip, but levels are not how I recommend books to readers. I want to know more about interests and preferences. I think we do as much harm for the "gifted" reader as we do for the "reluctant" or "struggling" or "below level" reader. Often, with GT (gifted and talented) readers, some try the PHD approach (pile it higher and deeper). If kids score high on tests, the answer seems to be to give them tougher and longer and more texts. I don't know about you, but that seems more like punishment to me.

For the GT reader who was the impetus for the app, instead of asking an educator (librarian? teacher?) to recommend books that might be a bit more challenging, the reader was given books for older readers. Now, there was a problem. The problem is that books for older readers (especially if we are measuring by levels and lexiles) are not developmentally appropriate. I have covered this territory before, but keep in mind that levels and lexiles center on words and not themes, ideas, concepts, situations. They should not be used as a guide for what kids should read. If they are used, we end up with books being placed in the hands of readers who are not "ready" for them.

If you follow the stories about challenges and censorship, you can see this time and again. A complaint often comes when a book is given to the wrong reader at the wrong time. Instead of handing SPEAK to a precocious intermediate grade reader, why not offer something more appropriate for that age group? Fahrenheit 451 has a reading level range from 3.9 to 5.2. Honestly, I cannot think of many 4th and 5th graders who should be handed this book (well, maybe the GN version) instead of another book on/about censorship. Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen has a 4ht grade readability. Speak is in the same range. When we use levels to select books (or lexiles to select books), we are reducing books to words, words, words.

Which brings me back to the app. Tune in tomorrow for more about "clean" reading via the app.
Tags: censorship, levels, lexiles

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