Amazing New Instrument for Leveling Books

CC 2.0 . US Department of Ed (2013) SAD_Hortons_Kids 104. Flickr


I am proud to announce that I have developed the best tool leveling books. The best part, your district already pays for the service.

The Leveling Debate

A debate rages   around leveling books.  On one side you have the CCSS calling for greater text complexity and other stalwarts holding on to reading recovery/readers workshop leveling.

Both are wrong.

A first grader is so much more than a letter H and being a B can be soul crushing. Each year I have my preservice teachers create an autobiography of being a reader and writer. As a school that prides ourselves in recruiting first generation college students we get more B’s than we do H’s. These students come scarred with the shame of being in these lower groups. It haunts them two decades later. Can this be good reading instruction?

The CCSS would like to blame a decline on reading in the complexity of texts students read. Accountability based edreformes cite surveys that show a decline in reading since 1984 (the same time standards and accountability, not to mention Nintendo, and cable were ushered in). They call on defining reading not by leveled books but on grade specific lexil levels that have little to do with complexity.

I take issue with both of these approaches. In either approach kids are more than a number or a letter.

The Reading Recovery/Workshop model and the CCSS ignore agency and identity.  We force kids to choose books from a bin and not from an interest. This has long been a problem and it will get worse. In fact the CCSS only mention reading motivation once.

That is why I am proud to announce the best tool for leveling books.

-As a tool it has been validated and iterated through centuries of designs.
-It works in almost any culture.
-Every school district already pays for the tool so there is no added cost.

It is a teacher’s mind.

Why can’t we rely on the expertise of the classroom teacher to “level” books? Lexile levels past the most simple sentences are meaningless. The assessments used to identify “instructional texts” vary in their fidelity and eat up massive amounts of instructional time.

  • A teacher knows a students reading level without endless hours of running records.
  • A teacher knows the topics that motivate a student.
  • A teacher knows when to give kids their Waterloo text.
  • A teacher knows when to choose texts, or not even use texts, to build foundational skills.

Do not pigeonhole kids into self-fulfilling labels. Allow the teacher to level books by teaching students to love the word.

It is time to trust the teachers.

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