The “Just Right” Double-Edged Sword

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Initially, this post had the tone of a soap box rant, a sermon about reading levels.  I pushed the laptop away last night and didn’t hit publish.  I’m glad that I left this post a draft until now – because I really don’t want to sound preachy about this topic.  I want my message to come across as a sweet note found in the lunchbox of parents and teachers.

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Would anyone ever tell Libby that she isn’t reading Pete the Cat correctly?  Or that Pete the Cat is too hard for her because she is only 3?  Of course not!  So let us keep this in mind when helping our students choose books at home, school, the library, and beyond.  Do I think knowing a child’s reading level is beneficial?  Of course!  Reading levels help teachers know what a student can read independently and can be used as a guide post for helping him/her grow as a reader.  At the same time, my students have free reign over the classroom library.  There are so many titles, I section it off for them at times, just to help with organization.  But – they can choose ANY book to read from the plethora.  I fight past the worry I may have for my struggling readers who could choose a book that contains text that is frustrating for them.  I watch them flip through pages, come to a conclusion, and either put the book back or settle in for the duration.  More often than not, the book is put back not because of difficulty, but because it does not interest them.  Studies have shown that readers who have an interest in what they are reading comprehend better – despite the level of the text.

And now I think I’m starting to get preachy… So I’ll end with this – Reading levels are a guide post for the “Just Right” book for your child.  “Just Right” meaning he or she can read it independently, not “Just Right” meaning the only books to read.  A level should not stifle, but scaffold.  Nurture your reader.  Give students voice and choice in their reading – and watch them grow. Watch them learn.  Watch them fall in love for the very first time…with books.

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Research about reading, interest, and comprehension:

https://www.msu.edu/~dwong/CEP991/CEP991Resources/Hidi-Int%26Rdng.pdf

http://www.macrothink.org/journal/index.php/ijl/article/view/3981

http://udini.proquest.com/view/the-effects-of-interest-on-reading-pqid:1903370111/

http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED022633

Reading level resources for parents and teachers:

http://www.readinga-z.com/readinga-z-levels/level-correlation-chart/

http://www.novi.k12.mi.us/vo/my-childs-reading-level/

http://www.readwritethink.org/parent-afterschool-resources/tips-howtos/help-child-choose-book-30320.html

http://www.rif.org/documents/us/choosing_books.pdf

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