I highly recommend all educators and parents read a bookseller’s perspective on leveling systems, Lexile in this case, which we re-posted on our blog last week. There are great firsthand examples of parents and booksellers striving in earnest to help children improve in reading.
Regardless of where one comes down on leveling books and assessing students with leveling systems, last week’s post laid bare the lack of or breakdown in communication between all stakeholders about the tools used to assess children’s reading growth.
Whether a child’s reading abilities are measured using Lexile, Accelerated Reader, DRA or another, we must equip any and all stakeholders in a child’s education with knowledge about what these tools mean and concrete ways to further support the child.
Children spend 7,800 hours outside of school each year compared to 900 hours in school. The National Center for Families Learning asserts that “the family unit—no matter the composition—is the one constant across the educational spectrum.” I am extending the definition of a child’s family to include afterschool volunteers, librarians, booksellers, pediatricians, and anyone else involved in a child’s education journey.
Below are strategies for strengthening the communication lines, sharing resources and context, and building a community invested in each child’s education. In doing so, we show our students, children, and customers that they have a whole team cheering for them and invested in their growth, joy, and success.
This week we are tackling what librarians and booksellers can do in preparation for hearing those magical words, “My child has a Lexile score of…” Next week, we will offer strategies for teachers and parents.
For librarians and booksellers who are asked which book for which level:
- Know the local feeder schools to your library or store and ask teachers or the school librarians what leveling systems they are using. Find out how the classroom libraries are organized (by theme, genre, Lexile level, AR level, guided reading level, author). Reaching out to neighborhood schools helps you learn about your customers and build relationships with educators. Ask schools for any booklists or level conversion charts. Schools will be thrilled to recommend their families to places that know their curriculum, leveling systems, and community. Students may move on, but you and teachers are in it for the long haul.
- If schools use multiple or differing leveling systems, ask schools for level conversion charts to have on hand for customers or download your own from Reading Rockets, Booksource, Scholastic Guided Reading Program, Lexile, or Lee & Low. A conversion chart will help you translate what grade level a customer is reading on and books you can recommend within that range.
- Design your own booklists based on grade levels or popular leveling systems. Search by book titles or by levels on Scholastic Book Wizard, Perma-Bound, Lexile’s Find a Book, Accelerated Reader BookFinder, and specific publishers like Lee & Low. Parents and students can reference these handouts as they explore the store.
- Even better: Use other pre-curated lists of popular leveling systems. Remember, you are neither the only nor first bookseller to have a confused nine year old asking what they should read at a Lexile level 930. Share and reach out to teachers and school librarians who may have created lists from which parents and children are requesting. Other persistent souls are tackling these issues as well: Durham County Library and Phoenix Public Library both built a reader’s service to search titles by Lexile, as well as graded and themed booklists.
- Know the Common Core Appendix B text exemplar list. It may not be perfect, but many schools are using these texts to benchmark against other works. Recognizing these books will give you a sense of what the expectations are for each grade level and what students across the country are reading. Pair books in your store or library with this list to help readers discover more contemporary, diverse, and multicultural books.
- If you have children who are reading significantly above their typical grade level and parents that are concerned that higher levels equal too mature content or themes, encourage expository nonfiction. Nonfiction often has higher technical and academic vocabulary bumping up the Lexile or Accelerated Reader levels (as they measure linguistic complexity), but the themes and concepts won’t be mature. When I had three students who were reading two plus grade levels above their peers, I sought out more STEM books that aligned with my third-grade science units, the solar system and animal adaptations. They were able to explore more in-depth about black holes and gravity than we could cover whole group.
- Remember ELL, EFL, ESL, and non-English speaking families. You will most likely have at least a few parents whose first language is NOT English. They will rely even more heavily on you (librarians and bookstore staff) for help finding the right fit book for their child. The more you learn about leveling systems and engage with the neighborhood schools, the more you help the child.
Next week, we will offer strategies for teachers and parents.
What have we missed? Please share in the comments your tricks, tips, and ideas for helping families and children navigate the bookshelves.
Jill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.