I posted recently about the different levels of text and how calls for using frustration levels of text for independent reading seem (to me at least) to be counterproductive if not downright wrong. Several folks left comments on my Facebook page about this blog entry. One of them is author Helen Frost (if you are not familiar with each of her books, you should be; more info here: http://helenfrost.net/). Helen remarked about the need for text to go beyond where the reader is by asking if a parent would buy shoes that were a size too big for her or his child. "you'll grow into it," works for clothes (and maybe even shoes, though this is painful to consider). It should not work for books. There are times to "read easy." I often will turn to some "comfort" books when I am stressed out. Today at the office I will read a handful or more of the picture books on my desk. At home I will finish reading the book I need to review for Booklist. This weekend I read 4 GNs set in other countries, countries at war. Not easy reading in the least, but accessible because of my interest in this topic for an upcoming workshop. Not 10 minutes ago, someone posted a question on my timeline about what degree of complexity an interactive read aloud should have. Again there is a concern about "size." Even more troubling was a Facebook post asking for an app that would level books easily. Sigh.
Let me be clear here: levels are derived from a formula. Books are not written via this formula. No author sits around trying to come up with a 3 syllable word that will push a book from a 5.1 to a 5.5 reading level. Authors select the right word to convey a feeling, a mood, the tone, an element of the character or setting or conflict, etc. Instead of relying on numbers, we need to show readers how to select books on their own. We need to be reading tons of books ourselves and sharing them with other readers. We need to advocate for choice, for access, for time to read. Let's stop making kids wear outsize books. Let's allow them to select a book that fits them just right.
Finally, I love Helen's comment on my Facebook post about why we would want to accelerate learning. It reminds me so much of the old PHD approach to teaching, especially working with advanced students> PILE. IT. HIGHER. AND. DEEPER. We need to stop the piling on, clear away the avalanche of stuff and take time and space to read a book that provides us what we need at the time be it information, comfort, a window, mirror, or door.