The Goal is a Love for Reading

Reading assessment tools are only one piece of the puzzle and we need to treat the assigned levels in a way that reflects that. The reading assessment tool can only tell us what level a student is at on one day at one time with one book. There is so much more to a reader than what you can gather from one reading assessment. We can’t let their assigned level limit them.

Take time to listen to them read the book that they can’t put down, the book that’s about their favourite video game, or a book they find hilarious. Listen for the word patterns they struggle with, ask them genuine questions about the book and plan your instruction around moving them forward.

Give them time to find these books and texts that spark a love for reading. Read aloud to them. Model how much you love reading. Surround them with good books and teach them that reading everywhere and can take place anywhere.

“Reading is like bathing, you have to do it every day. You can’t just take four showers on Monday and be good for the week”

–Jen Jones

Remember that reading can happen everywhere and doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. Reading is not limited to leveled books or books at all. It’s okay if they have read the same book 4 times, they’re building confidence. It’s okay if they’re choosing to read a book that you think is above their level, they’re exposing themselves to words they’ve never seen before and making meaning of what they can read. Let them read without limiting them.

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Should Classroom Libraries be Organized by Reading Level?

The idea behind leveled libraries is that students will be less likely to read outside of their assigned level.

What happens when students read above their level?

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling provides a perfect example.

Children that read well below the reading level assigned to Harry Potter were able to read, comprehend, and enjoy the books. Harry Potter was able to motivate readers to tackle challenging words, sentences, and paragraphs in ways that Bingo Goes to School just can’t.

“Interest and motivation also great affect a reader’s ability to read a text. An excellent example of this is the recent Harry Potter phenomenon, in which thousands of children as young as second grade read and enjoyed 300 and 400 page books written at fifth to seventh-grade reading levels, simply because they were fascinated by the magical world created by J.K. Rowling in her series. Most teachers can likewise recount stories of students like the struggling high school reader who tests at a fourth or fifth-grade reading level, but somehow manages to read and understand a motorcycle repair manual written at the tenth-grade level, because he wants to fix up his motorcycle.”

“When readers have a good bit of prior knowledge on a topic, even difficult texts can be easier to read and understand because they can draw on their own knowledge to fill in any gaps in their comprehension.”

How can they grow as readers if they are only exposed to one book pattern and one set of words?

“Finally, full comprehension is not necessary for a reader to enjoy and benefit from a book.”

What happens when students read below their level?

Does reading below grade level turn your brain to mush?

How could it?

If this were true most parents would have lost their ability to read before the hundredth reading of “The Very Hungary Caterpillar”.

Books below a student’s reading level can build their confidence in reading, which they can apply to reading more challenging books.

Fountas and Pinnell “…pointed out that [we] never intended the A to Z reading levels to be used in the way they often are. That is, teachers informing students (and sometimes their classmates) of their current letter level, making parents aware of the level, and organizing classroom libraries by level.”

“We designed the F&P Text Level Gradient™ to help teachers think more analytically about the characteristics of texts and their demands on the reading process, and the A to Z levels were used to show small steps from easiest to most difficult. The goal was for teachers to learn about the characteristics of each level to inform their decisions in teaching—how they introduce a book, how they discuss a book, how they help children problem-solve as they process a book. We created the levels for books, and not as labels for children, and our goal was that these levels be in the hands of people who understand their complexity and use them to make good decisions in instruction. We certainly never intended that children focus on a label for themselves in choosing books in classroom libraries.”

How should we organize our libraries if we’re not organizing them by level?

“Libraries should engage readers and provide high-quality, high-interest, fascinating materials. A good library could be organized like a good bookstore—trying to sell books to readers.”

The goal is fostering a love for reading, which can be very hard to accomplish if students are limited in reading only books that fit into their assigned level.  Not only are they missing out on books outside of their level but they are also missing out on all of the texts that don’t have a level at all. So many great texts aren’t leveled, like magazines, graphic novels, menus, closed captioning, letters, cereal boxes, manuals, newspapers, catalogs, recipes, scripts, and of course student made books. Children need to read in any way that interests them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/reading-minds/201702/three-myths-about-reading-levels

https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=fountas-pinnell-say-librarians-guide-readers-interest-not-level

Harry Potter Statistics

https://www.statista.com/statistics/689693/kids-read-harry-potter-books-by-age-group/

http://www.life-after-harry-potter.com/hpbooks.html

 

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Book Choice in Reading Assessment

The PM Benchmark reading assessment tool uses numerical levels 1-30. Each Level is accompanied by one book and a running record sheet with a sample of about 100 words for educators to assess fluency, accuracy, and a small section for comprehension. The book collection includes fiction and non-fiction books on various subjects.

Other than the limited selection of books, the books themselves raise many problems. Some of the books seem like “fake books” (words printed on the inside of the front and back covers with no pages). The books often don’t show an author or illustrator and aren’t anything like the books you would find in a bookstore, or the books they would read for fun.

Can one book on a randomly selected topic accurately show how fluent and accurate a reader is? The simple answer is no, interest in the book topic matters much more in reading fluency, accuracy, and comprehension than we may think. They are much more likely to make meaning and comprehend when the story has context in their lives.

“First, reading is an interactive process, so the difficulty or ease with which a particular reader can read a particular text depends in part on his or her prior knowledge related to the text and motivation for reading it.”

If the child has never been to the zoo, for example, they are going to have a much harder time adding meaning and comprehending a book about the zoo, than a book about something they have experienced. But because there is only one book for each level, the student doesn’t have another chance.

Think about a textbook you’ve had to read in school for a subject you weren’t very interested in. Although the textbook may be at your reading level (not that you know what your reading level is as an adult) it was probably still hard to read and probably didn’t make very much sense.

“Interest and motivation are key to reading; reading is more than just decoding words.”

There are so many factors that affect the students’ performance in a reading assessment aside from their experience and interest. Is the student tired, hungry, distracted, sick, or anxious?

We need to assess where our students at with their reading but we can’t let the level determined by this assessment limit them.

How can we start to find a balance?

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/reading-minds/201702/three-myths-about-reading-levels

http://www.readingrockets.org/article/what-can-harry-potter-teach-us-about-children-and-reading

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Book Choice in Reading Assessment

The PM Benchmark reading assessment tool uses numerical levels 1-30. Each Level is accompanied by one book and a running record sheet with a sample of about 100 words for educators to assess fluency, accuracy, and a small section for comprehension. The book collection includes fiction and non-fiction books on various subjects.

Other than the limited selection of books, the books themselves raise many problems. Some of the books seem like “fake books” (words printed on the inside of the front and back covers with no pages). The books often don’t show an author or illustrator and aren’t anything like the books you would find in a bookstore, or the books they would read for fun.

Can one book on a randomly selected topic accurately show how fluent and accurate a reader is? The simple answer is no, interest in the book topic matters much more in reading fluency, accuracy, and comprehension than we may think. They are much more likely to make meaning and comprehend when the story has context in their lives.

“First, reading is an interactive process, so the difficulty or ease with which a particular reader can read a particular text depends in part on his or her prior knowledge related to the text and motivation for reading it.”

If the child has never been to the zoo, for example, they are going to have a much harder time adding meaning and comprehending a book about the zoo, than a book about something they have experienced. But because there is only one book for each level, the student doesn’t have another chance.

Think about a textbook you’ve had to read in school for a subject you weren’t very interested in. Although the textbook may be at your reading level (not that you know what your reading level is as an adult) it was probably still hard to read and probably didn’t make very much sense.

“Interest and motivation are key to reading; reading is more than just decoding words.”

There are so many factors that affect the students’ performance in a reading assessment aside from their experience and interest. Is the student tired, hungry, distracted, sick, or anxious?

We need to assess where our students at with their reading but we can’t let the level determined by this assessment limit them.

How can we start to find a balance?

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/reading-minds/201702/three-myths-about-reading-levels

http://www.readingrockets.org/article/what-can-harry-potter-teach-us-about-children-and-reading

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What Reading Assessments Programs are Out There?

In this blog, I will be referencing both my experiences and research with the PM Benchmark assessment tool and the literacy company Fountas and Pinnell.

 

 

Along with a reading record or reading continuum assessment, some districts choose to also use a screener on their primary students. The screener is a compilation of different activities that help to assess phonemic awareness, letter recognition, and concepts of print.

In the PM Benchmark program, there are 30 levels from kindergarten to grade three, each level is accompanied by one book and a sample of about 100 words to determine the reader’s fluency and reading level (1-30). Does one sample on one book provide us with a fair understanding of where a child is in their reading? Would the child perform better if they are interested in the book, have personal experiences with the topic, or if the book felt more like a book they might read at home?

Screeners and running records tell us what level the reader is at, where they are with their reading, and where to go with future instruction. But what do these tools not tell us?

This question along with other questions such as:

How do these levels affect children?

How are reading levels used in schools around North America?

How accurate/ fair are these levels?

Will be addressed in future blog posts.

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