Friday, August 15, 2008

So What Do We Know About This?

Thanks to a correspondent, I learned yesterday of the Lexile Framework for Reading. The company homepage describes it as "an educational tool that connects readers with reading materials using a common measure called a Lexile." I will be honest, here, and admit that I found the background material explaining Lexile measurement a bit intimidating. As soon as I saw the charts, my brain froze. But my wild guess is that this is an attempt to more accurately determine the reading level of a book then just calling it a "middle grade novel" or saying it's for kids 8 to 12 or 10 years old and up.

My first four books have Lexile scores available at through the Lexile site's database.

So is this something a lot of you have heard about? It was totally new to me.


Kelly said...

Oh, Gail. You're SO lucky you've missed all this crazy testing mania.

I'll let the teachers respond to this for the most part, but let me just say that we parents know A LOT about this.

IMHO: Lexile scores hold kids back. And I say that having kids with high LEXILE scores.

I had a piano teacher when I was young who taught me everything about everything. She bought me a book of Chopin's "Mazurkas" after 1 year of study. I looked at them (I think I was 9) and said, "I'm not ready to play these." She told me, "You'll become ready if you stretch yourself."

I believe that about kids and reading. I think every child should have the right to read WHATEVER book they want at any given time, be it "War and Peace" or a Berenstain Bears book.

(When my daughter was in 5th grade, her lexile scores showed that she was eligible to read 7 books in the Middle School Library. That meant she wouldn't get any reading credit in her reading class. She read those 7 books [I think they were all Dickens, with the exception of To Kill a Mockingbird], but there was no way she could read the number of books a child with lower lexile scores could. I'm sorry, but that's just lame.)

MmeT said...

As a teacher and a parent, I agree with Kelly. Kids need to read what they are interested in and will do so no matter what the lexile. Some may need some scaffolding to be able to read the title they want, but that is the teacher or parents job to recognize the need and act appropriately. I see lexiles and other things such as the Fountas and Pinnell scale as a measure of a child's progress but certainly not a prescription for the books they should have access to.

Karen Edmisten said...

I agree -- I'm completely opposed to this kind of stuff. It's stifling for kids.

AMY T said...

Lexile scores and other book leveling systems are just tools. Their utility and drawbacks depend entirely on how they're used. I've taught 4th - 6th grade and it's often been nice to have some indication, beyond "middle grade novel", as to a book's difficulty.

The alternative to having real literature that has been "leveled" is having texts that have been written just to meet a certain publisher's definition of "on-grade", "below-grade" or "above-grade", and these kind of contrived texts KILL the joy of reading.

There's a big difference between 8-year-old readers and 12-year-old readers and as a new-ish 4th grade teacher I really appreciated the various leveling systems that helped me transition my students up into the realm of reading ability where the difficulty level ceased to be relevant.

Anonymous said...

I did some freelance for a publisher's educational division about a year or so ago. My job was (heavenly) to find short stories for kids and teens that could be ascribed to various themes. It was a lot of fun but the downside was that these stories had to fall within very specific Lexile scores. I eventually decided that my best bet was to just find as many stories as possible and hope that some of them would fall into place. A bit of an annoyance though, and no question.

Anonymous said...

As a public librarian and cheerleader for free reading, I'm alternately irritated and angered by Lexile. For someone who knows very little about children's literature, it's helpful... maybe. But I despise that teachers and parents are looking for books purely based on these scores. Adults (it's never kids, of course) come in with long print-outs of titles within a certain Lexile range, but there's no indication of whether the books are fiction or nonfiction, what their subject is, if they're funny or serious. Of course I don't mind helping tease out the books that would be of interest to and of the appropriate reading level for their kids, but that's what I'd do *without* the Lexile anyway.

I always think of Mitch from Beverly Cleary's book Mitch and Amy-- fourth grader Mitch who couldn't get through an easy reader about Jeff and his pony, but breezed through a novel about Wild Bill Hickok while laid up in bed. Interest and appeal will not always trump sentence complexity, but so often they do.

Anonymous said...

These things always worry me--because I'm afraid that they'll be used without intelligent and creative teacher guidance. As a guestimate, they're probably okay, but as a basic resource, I see them as a problem.

Last year, my son (6th grade) tested at an AR (accelerated reader) level of 13--meaning about the 1st year of college, I think. Anyway, for one book report, they were told to pick a book at their reading level and read it every day for a few weeks, then basically journal about it every day. I was fine with this, for one book--it's always good to experiment and stretch. But when I looked for books at that level, his choices were pretty much Dickens, Cooper, and Hawthorne. Okay...He picked Oliver Twist and made it about halfway through, enjoying parts of it, I think, but with no interest in continuing after the assignment date. And...I'm sorry--Hawthorne? What interest does my son have in The Scarlet Letter? I'm sure if I'd gone to the teacher and talked about it, she'd have been willing to go down a few levels and give him more choice--for one time, I didn't feel it was worth it. And I do think, as I said, that its good for him to reach out every once in a while.

But...some classes are run where the kids just go pick from their list, read a book, test on the computer, and that's it. If my son got in one of these classes, how much wonderful fiction, appropriate for his age, would he be missing out on? Classics AND modern choices?

Jennie said...

Ah yes, the long list of books based on Lexile Scores. I wish teachers would *look* at these lists before handing them out to make sure that the content was OK!

A Chair for my Mother is in the same Lexile range as The Skin I'm In. What would the teacher who handed out the list do if this 2nd grader did her book report on The Skin I'm In?!

Gail Gauthier said...

A Chair for My Mother 640L

The Skin I'm In 670L

My search showed the lexile numbers above for these books--not quite the same, but very close. Amazon describes Chair as being for ages 4 to 8. One of the reviews at Amazon for Skin place it in the 6th to 8th grade range.

Sara said...

So, my 10 year old has tested at a Lexile score of 1455. What does this mean? He is a HUGE reader - constantly reading. I doubt he is interested or would fully comprehend a college level text. We do not select books on Lexile ratings nor does our school district force students to pick books in that manner. Is this a useful tool? Should I care? Thoughts?