Reading Level Insanity
“You’re not ready for Harry Potter #1, but you can check out Harry Potter #3.”
This actually happening. My neighbor relayed to my wife an almost tragic exchange between her third-grade son and the library clerk at a local elementary school. Her son had recently scored in the 700s on his Lexile test. During his next visit to the school library, he chose the first book in the Harry Potter series to try. When he approached the checkout counter, he was told his book choice was too high for his Lexile score, but he would be allowed to take the third book in the series.
And I say…Are you serious?!?
A flurry of thoughts jet into my head all at once; I’ll try to untangle them. First, this lacks any type of common sense. Why would anyone think starting with the third book in any series would actually help a student’s ability to comprehend? We would never suggest this with a movie series, but yet, we have educators who are so dedicated to reading levels they are blind to the importance of choice.
My second thought wonders, How prevalent is this? Is this an isolated case or is this happening all across our country? Are we so labeling kids with letter and numbers which can fit into a spreadsheet that we ignore what is best for them? Visiting the Lexile website, viewers are assailed with this disturbing image, suggesting kids are thrilled to be labeled with a number:
Finally, sadness takes over as I realize the Harry Potter #3 suggestion was made by a library clerk, not a media specialist. In schools across the country, media specialists have become the victims of budget cuts, and Harry Potter #3 suggestions are the outcome. This movement to eliminate media specialists began six to seven years ago in my area, and the consequences grow more visible every year. Aging collections nobody is caring for, overworked paraprofessionals not being paid enough for their time, and a lack of common sense with book suggestions affect our students as readers. We can only hope this trend is reversed soon.