Monday, February 20, 2012

Letting Go of Leveling

Leveled reading means assigning students to reading levels based on a general assessment. (Each level is represented by a letter or number.) In many elementary settings, students will read only books in their assigned level.
I would argue that this assignment of leveled books to young readers can be inauthentic, irrelevant, and boring. I recently spoke to a kindergartner's parents who said that their daughter was becoming increasingly uninterested in school and literacy homework because of the leveled reading taking place in her classroom.

Leveling seems like a simple, convenient way for teachers to organize a classroom or grade into reading groups. They can track students' reading abilities through basic assessments, and move them through the levels as they progress. But ... teaching and learning to read isn't simple or convenient all the time. Trying to force early readers into a pre-constructed organization means that we are narrowing children's options at a time when we should be allowing them to explore all kinds of literacy. Many children who are told they cannot or should not read books outside of a certain group will begin to believe it, and this is setting them up for future literacy failure.

As teachers and parents, we need to give children access to a variety of texts and literacy opportunities. Children need to experience books they can read independently which also stimulate their thinking. If using leveled readers is a requirement in your school, supplement children's reading materials with books that relate to children's personal interests. Make reading a meaningful experience, not simply an exercise in phonics.

So, let's try to let reading be a little complicated. Give children a voice in their reading choices now and will be much more likely to read for pleasure in the future.

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