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boy and girl wearing knit crowns looking at reading picture books with mother
Dr. Joanne Meier
Sound It Out
Joanne Meier

“Level-Mania” and the Identity of the Reader

I read something interesting at the Edge of the Forest (opens in a new window) about leveled book systems in elementary classrooms. A small snip from the thoughtful piece:

In the name of “just right” books, we may be sacrificing real reading experiences that will last a lifetime.

The author (opens in a new window) seeks to make the point that leveled systems in classrooms which funnel children into baskets of books that match their reading level deny those students authentic ways to develop the ‘behaviors of readers’ by building ‘their own identity as a reader.’ Predetermined reading baskets provide fewer opportunities to explore genre, favorite authors or illustrators and provide greater opportunities to read only with the purpose of getting to the next level basket.

Don’t get me wrong — by recognizing this piece I’m not arguing against leveled systems. Leveling systems can maximize the instructional value of a lesson by providing a reliable way to match a young reader with a book. They also provide guidance to teachers who are new to the concept of the reader-text match. But I see the author’s point about reading ownership.

So, here’s the challenge: have kids read on their instructional level (defined here (opens in a new window) as 90% accuracy) to help develop their skill as readers and, as teachers, engage in all kinds of other behaviors that help children develop their “reading identity”. Some tips for doing that, again from the Edge of the Forest (opens in a new window):

[*]Help children find favorite authors.[*]Guide them to choose books with characters they might come to love — books where the same character appears in several books [*]Ask them about the kinds of books they like, not the level of book they want [*]Organize our books in baskets by author, genre, topic and series, rather than by level [*]Allow kids to choose books that are too hard or too easy if it fits their purpose [*]Talk to kids about my favorite books, authors, and genres [*]Introduce children to new books, authors, and genres [*]Have conversations with children about new books that I am excited about [*]Share ways that I keep up with new books coming out using internet resources [*]Share book reviews with children and talk about the kinds of books that sound good to them.

About the Author

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Publication Date
January 24, 2007