Confusion in the Children’s Section

Do you remember what your favorite book was as a child? Go ahead; take a second to reminisce about those large books with the bright pictures and the memorable characters.  When I was thinking about my favorite children’s books, a few came to mind such as Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Thinking back on those two books, I realized that I had been lumping them together as children’s books when in fact they were targeted for specific aged children. I remember reading, The Very Hungry Caterpillar when I was in preschool and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day when I was in elementary school. Because of the different ages that I remember reading these books, I remembered that some books are divided into levels to help teachers, parents and children decided which books are right for their kids. However, when I went to research these levels, I realizeed how confusing it was.

Many books found in the children’s section of your local or school library tend to have seemingly random numbers or letters, usually on the spine. These numbers or letters correspond with a reading level. For children with a lower reading level, their books tend to have repetitive words and sentence structures to help them understand the meaning of the words (very similar to the Dick and Jane books that were popular in the 1950’s). Books for children with higher reading levels tend to have more complicated sentence structures and plots. One website I read (http://www.busykidshappymom.org/book-level-guide-for-parents/ ) mentioned that parents needed to ask their child’s teacher what their child’s reading level was if they intended to use the reading level system. Having to ask what reading level a child was in put up a red flag for me. Wasn’t there a simpler way such as saying 4-5 year olds tend to read these books? But I rationalized this red flag by thinking that some students, especially younger students, tend to read at very diverse levels so the parents may want to check with the teacher before they give their child a book that was too difficult or too easy to read.

When I began to look at specific books that corresponded with different reading levels, I realized that there was no uniform system identifying which children’s books went with each reading level. Many companies have different systems of labeling their books. For example, the Scholastic Guided Reading Program Levels are divided by letters such as F-N while the Common Core State Standards Lexile divides reading levels by numbers such as 450-620. Both of these examples of the reading levels are targeted for children in the second grade. Although these two groups are just examples, there are many other labeling systems for reading levels that correspond with different companies.

When looking at charts, like the one found here, (http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/classroombooks/browse_level.asp?eml=SSO/aff/20140501/VigLink/banner/CJ/affiliate/////11837433/&cj_linkd=11837433&cj_webid=6157437&cj_sid=i6n4b9oojc00xkod015j8&cj_affid=2470763&cj_affname=VigLink ) that describe the numbering or lettering system for reading levels, I was struck by how complicated it all was. And, I really do not think it needs to be this complicated. I believe that there should be a standard categorizing system for children’s books by reading levels to make it easier for teachers, parents and children to select an appropriate book for the appropriate reading level. Perhaps this notion is farfetched, but I believe it would be beneficial. Please let me know what you think. Thanks!

 

~Carson

 

Sources:

http://www.busykidshappymom.org/book-level-guide-for-parents/

http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/classroombooks/browse_level.asp?eml=SSO/aff/20140501/VigLink/banner/CJ/affiliate/////11837433/&cj_linkd=11837433&cj_webid=6157437&cj_sid=i6n4b9oojc00xkod015j8&cj_affid=2470763&cj_affname=VigLink

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/teaching-themes/everything-you-need

https://lexile.com/

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4 Responses to Confusion in the Children’s Section

  1. natercole says:

    At first I didn’t think that the levels system could be that complicated, then I clicked on the link and was blown away. You have a really good point, this system doesn’t need to be so complicated. At the same time, I think this limits children to only read books that are assigned to their specific age and reading level. If we challenge our children to read harder books, especially those that interest them, their reading skills will skyrocket with their ambition.

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  2. kellyeb2015 says:

    I agree that the system does not need to be so complicated, but I honestly don’t know how I would simplify it. Children of all ages are of all different reading levels, and there are always some who are “behind” and others who are “above” the typical reading level for their grade. Your idea of books being categorized by reading levels makes sense to me, but my issue is which books parents buy for their kids. A child may be drawn to a book due to a fun cover and parents who are unaware of their child’s reading level may buy it without knowing if it is appropriate for the child. Buying a book a step above one’s reading level is a good challenge, but buying a book below the child’s reading level is an issue. I believe in parents and teachers working together and using a fairly simple system (if possible) to determine which books are right for which kids.

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  3. Casper Rhay says:

    Interesting post! I’m left wondering, who determines what is appropriate/developmentally normal?

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  4. khjinni says:

    Wow, that really is a very complicated chart. I’m glad you did this research and pointed them out. Personally, I didn’t think that there were reading levels for children’s book, especially for kindergarteners. I believe this bias is shared in the world since reading is more an issue for older, advanced level students. You’ve mentioned the different types of standards, but not the methodology behind them. Knowing why certain organizations created their respective levels probably would help understand why they’re all so complicated. Also, I want to take your “too complicated” idea further and even question the need for reading levels for such young children. After all, they’re all in the process of developing reading skills, and each child probably has a different reading background. Why not just ease them into the habit of flipping pages and enjoying reading without having to worry about levels?

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