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I read Lisa Koch’s essay (opens in a new window) on Choice Literacy (opens in a new window) recently. Koch shares a poignant story of her son who desperately wants to read from the “L bin” at school, but his reading skills aren’t quite there yet. The book choices in his lettered bin seem dull and dry. Koch watched as her son’s motivation to read drained slowly out of him. At the end the piece, Koch pleads with teachers: please reorganize those bins!

If you’re not sure what Koch is talking about, she’s referring to classroom libraries organized using Fountas & Pinnell’s Guided Reading (opens in a new window)
leveling system. Many, many classroom libraries are organized this way. Books are given a certain letter rating depending on specific characteristics of the text, which are described in various places, including Matching Books To Readers (opens in a new window).

Several free databases (like this one (opens in a new window)) exist to help teachers know how to level a book, and determine which titles are on specific levels. Other grids (opens in a new window) help parents and teachers know what grade levels correspond to specific letter ratings.

But the real issue is whether kids can (should?) read outside “their” bin and how “their” bin is defined for them. Because I’m sure many teachers will be unwilling to reorganize their bins for a different system, here are three considerations for teachers that may make Guided Reading bins more appealing to parents like Koch:

1. Look through your bins, particularly the lower-lettered ones. Does each bin contain some interesting books? Do they include fiction and nonfiction (opens in a new window)? Something to keep even the most unmotivated reader going?

2. Re-evaluate your system for having kids read only from specific bins. Is there ever a chance for free choice reading from any bin? This might be a great way for kids to get excited about new authors and series.

3. Perhaps most importantly, re-evaluate every child’s bin assignment on a regular basis. What are your criteria for moving a kid in or out of a bin?

I don’t know whether these considerations would quell Koch’s concerns, but I love to hear what you think. And I’d love to hear your suggestions, too!

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
October 29, 2008