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Reading Level Dilemma

I feel that I am extremely fortunate to be able to work with kids every day. I see so much being accomplished with them, and I see them grow into responsible young adults. There is, however, one aspect of my job that causes me stress almost every day: reading levels.

In efforts to support literacy in every aspect of our students’ education, it is obviously my responsibility as their librarian to provide the materials to accomplish this. I have color-coded the books in the library to correspond with reading levels used in the building. I have patron ID cards for every student which has the dots for their own reading levels on the back. We have an individually paced program (SME) which tracks the students’ reading levels, so the levels I am using are data driven. This way students are able to find materials at their level (or actually, a little above – for challenge). That is actually where my problem is. Human nature dictates that the students will never be satisfied with the level at which they are able to read. This means constant whining and complaining…to me, like it is my fault. We always discuss how to raise their levels. I am also constantly told, say by a 1st grader, “I am reading Harry Potter” or “Twilight”. We try to discuss the difference between reading independently and being read to – or even reading <em>with</em> them – or just carrying the book around. It doesn’t help that the bookmobile which stops at our school will provide the kids with materials that are not age/content appropriate; this is one of the places 1st graders are getting “Harry Potter” and Twilight”. Almost everyone supports my efforts to provide the kids with materials they can handle without causing them frustration. There is only one teacher who totally disagrees with this responsibility of mine. She told me that the kids should be allowed to get whatever they want because they aren’t going to read it anyway. I feel I have a professional responsibility to promote reading, as opposed to causing kids to hate reading because they don’t stand a chance of reading/comprehending what I give them. I feel I have a moral (and professional) obligation to also watch the content of the material. Just because a 3rd grader is reading at a 7th or 8th grade reading level (yes, we have a couple) doesn’t mean they should read it. Books written at the higher levels tend to deal with topics like abuses (drug, physical, sexual, etc), dating, sex, violence, adult crimes, and other issues a 3rd grader does not need to be exposed to yet. According to that one teacher’s beliefs, I should allow those 3rd graders to read young adult and adult material. I guess I relate this the same way to movie material. Just because a parent (and I know it is a parent’s choice to do this, and I would not presume to push my moral opinions at them) lets their 6 year old watch Rated R movies, does that mean we as responsible educators should give them access to them in school?


QUESTIONS FOR COMMENT: How is the matter of reading levels handled in your school? What tools are used for data collection in regard to reading levels? How do other libraries attempt to match readers to their reading levels without controversy?

~ by dwhiteman on . Tagged:

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