“My child is reading level ___. What do you recommend?” This is a question I get as a Children’s Librarian that I dislike, but even worse is: “My teacher won’t let me read that because it’s below my reading level.” A teacher is telling a child not to read a book!
Why do I dislike these questions? It concentrates on the mechanics of reading, but not the interest in reading. It is merely an automated way for schools to measure reading, not a good way to find books suitable for a particular child. Book leveling is not about the book, or the story, or child appropriateness, or a child’s interest. Just to give you an example, some of the smuttiest books out there are written at a fourth grade level. Would I put such a book in a child’s hand who reads at that level? No way! Or if a teen is struggling with reading, his/her reading level may be at the second grade level, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be interested in stories about second graders.
The Lexile company puts out levels, for example, and are labeled for a 75% comprehension rate. That means that kids who supposedly read at a particular level don’t understand a quarter of what they’re reading! If I were reading a book that hard I’d get frustrated and bored. Kids are the same way. Do we really want to teach kids that reading is hard and boring? If you think something is hard and boring, do you want to do it in your free time? I didn’t think so.
My working philosophy (backed up by research) is that kids should read books they find interesting. If they find books and reading interesting, they’ll do more of it. The more they read, the better they’ll get. The better they get at reading, the better they’ll do on tests at school. Just like in sports, the more they do it, the better they’ll get. The more fun they have doing it, the more they’ll want to practice, whether it be throwing a baseball or reading a book.
My job is to find a book that is just right for your child. Yes, being able to read the words on the page is part of the equation. But the most important part is putting a book in your child’s hands that they’ll be excited to read. Come visit us at the library Information Desk, and let’s find a “Just Right” book for your child.
So what do I love to hear instead? “I just finished this book. What should I read next?”