The Tyranny of Reading Levels

Kathy Cassidy via Compfight cc

Kathy Cassidy via Compfight cc

Reading levels can be a great tool or strategy for teaching, but they shouldn’t be used to discourage kids from reading to their younger siblings or from stretching themselves to explore a book that looks interesting.

Here’s a great post from Choice Literacy called the Tyranny of Reading Levels:

“Education has produced a vast population able to read, but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.
                                                                   G. M. Trevelyan

“Once upon a time, there was a third-grade girl, Daisy, who loved to read. She read all the time. While she liked to read about horses and outer space, she especially loved to read stories. She had read every single Magic Tree House, Junie B. Jones, and Amber Brown book ever written.  Recently, she had been into reading books about animals and had read Shiloh and Charlotte’s Web.

One day, as she browsed through books at the school library, she found a book with a beautiful cover of a girl wearing glasses holding a comic book. When she saw it, she thought, “that girl looks like me!” She ran her fingers over the letters scrawled grandly across the cover and read the title aloud: Flora and Ulysses. It was then that she noticed a small animal tucked up in the corner which compelled her to read the back cover. As her eyes skimmed over the words describing a story about a squirrel who gets run over by a vacuum cleaner and strangely develops super powers, she opened the book and began to read.” Read the rest of the piece here.


Understanding Dyslexia and the Reading Brain ~ New Piece from Mindshift

flickr photo by CaptPiper shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

flickr photo by CaptPiper shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

From MindShift:

“At a recent talk for special education teachers at the Los Angeles Unified School District, child development professor Maryanne Wolf urged educators to say the word dyslexia out loud.

“Don’t ever succumb to the idea that it’s going to develop out of something, or that it’s a disease,” she recalled telling teachers. “Dyslexia is a different brain organization that needs different teaching methods. It is never the fault of the child, but rather the responsibility of us who teach to find methods that work for that child.”

Wolf, who has a dyslexic son, is on a mission to spread the idea of “cerebrodiversity,” the idea that our brains are not uniform and we each learn differently. Yet when it comes to school, students with different brains can often have lives filled with frustration and anguish as they, and everyone around them, struggle to figure out what is wrong with them.”

Read the entire piece here.

How Much Text Complexity Can Teachers Scaffold?

flickr photo by basheem shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Professor Timothy Shanahan writes an excellent blog on literacy. His latest post, “How Much Text Complexity Can Teachers Scaffold?” is a great and thoughtful read.

“How much of a “gap” can be compensated through differentiation? If my readers are at a 400 Lexile level, is there an effective way to use a 820 level chapter book? 

            This is a great question. (Have you ever noticed that usually means the responder thinks he has an answer).

            For years, teachers were told that students had to be taught with books that matched their ability, or learning would be reduced. As a teacher I bought into those notions. I tested every one of my students with informal reading inventories, one-on-one, and then tried to orchestrate multiple groups with multiple book levels. This was prior to the availability of lots of short paperback books that had been computer scored for F & P levels or Lexiles, so I worked with various basal readers to make this work.

            However, a careful look at the research shows me that almost no studies have found any benefits from such matching. In fact, if one sets aside those studies that focused on children who were reading no higher than a Grade 1 level, then the only results supporting specific student-text matches are those arguing for placing students at what we would have traditionally called their frustration level.”

Read the entire piece here.