Leveled Reading – Is it hurting?

My fellow teachers and I had a conversation similar to one we have had in the past.  The books students are required to read in school are not one that will inspire and encourage the love a reading.

We have had this conversation before, but what stood out to me this time was that we all mentioned how sad it is that kids and parents will tell you what level they are, when we ask them what they are reading or what they like to read.

Teacher: “What are you reading in school?”

Student: “I am a level E”

Did you catch that?  The teacher asked what, hoping for a book or a genre and the student answers with what level they are on. The other teachers and I discussed how students, parents, and many teachers are now so locked into a only reading at “levels” that they are exploring the library or the other books.

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko is a Newbery Honor books, is not leveled and so many students who “don’t like reading” love reading this book when we suggest it.  The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan (any of his series) is loved by students we suggest it to, is not leveled, and sadly i often overlooked by parents because it is not leveled.  Let’s not forget Magic Tree House, A to Z Mysteries, Rainbow Magic, and Alex Rider just to name a few.

Could you imagine Harry Potter not being read?  Well it is not leveled, so where do you put it on the shelf?  Why are libraries in schools and classrooms organizing books by reading levels?  That is not how to encourage kids to read and love reading.

Kids need to be able to explore an entire library and see what they like, or a local bookstore.  I like Barnes & Nobles, and the kid’s section is huge for kids to explore, but they don’t get to see books like Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice.  Sure, a 7 year old cannot read the book, but it is the ability to see it and creating a desire to want to read it.  The five year old who sees a book almost 2 inches thick in the library and wants to look at it is showing signs of curiosity and a desire to explore, both of those skills should be encouraged.

It is not just the young students we worried about, high school students are being required to read books that are worthy of being considered important or classics, but who really enjoyed reading Macbeth?  Compared to Shakespeare‘s other works like Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, Taming of the Shrew?  Why do we pick the tragedies for 15 and 16 year olds to read?  And with Justice Ginsberg going to Venice to take part in The Merchant of Venice this Summer, why not read that and bring in discussions about how the court system works, what the Supreme Court of The United States does and how it operates?

Instead of reading just tragedies, why are we not looking at other works by famous authors that are classics too?  The answer of this is what is always been required or it is a classic doesn’t make sense when the result is that you are loosing a the love of reading.

Now I am not saying that you should allow students to sit there and read Diary of a Minecraft Zombie instead of Frankenstein, but why can’t a student be encouraged to read what they are interested in addition.

After reading Taming of the Shrew it can easily be compared to other love stories, and Much Ado About Nothing can be connected to modern life, hopefully more so than Hamlet (but that can be compared to some Greek Tragedies, which can be enjoyable to read).


I guess the bottom line of this post is that there are tons of amazing things to read out there, and I think schools, teachers, and parents should start considering looking outside of books that are “leveled” and required reading, especially when a child of any age says they hate reading, or that reading is boring.  The books the might be forced to read in school might be boring, or not interesting to them, but there are more interesting books than boring books, you just have to expose children to them.

Please expose your children or students to books that are interesting to them.  I promise you there is at least one interesting book in the world for each and every child.

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