Ever heard of a Lexile score?
Until today, when it popped up on a Facebook page to which I belong. Kids at a school were apparently asking if they were allowed to read books outside of their “Lexile Range”. Thankfully the teacher to whom this question was asked said that yes, of course they can. (Because we do not yet, apparently, have Lexile police who will show up and rip any non-Lexile range book out of your hands!)
The Lexile range can be found on a website called www.Lexile.com . Don’t know your child’s range? Not to worry! They have a way to calculate it. It’s super scientific, too. It asks the child (because this only applies to school age kids – adults don’t get to have a Lexile Range) what grade they are in. Then it asks if they find the books they are given to read at school “difficult, easy, or just right.” It’s like the Goldilocks way of determining your kid’s reading level! Then it asks what type of books they enjoy. Among the possible choices? Fantasy, Biography, Science, Comics, Fiction, Business & Law and Building. Just to screw with it, we picked “Business and Law” and “Fantasy”. And that’s it. See, I told you it was super scientific. (For the record, a 9th grader who chooses “Business & Law” and “Fantasy” as subjects of interest will apparently love Robin Hood, the Golden Arrow. The 9th grader sitting in my living room rolled her eyes when I told her as much.)
Once they’ve answered those in depth questions, voila! Their Lexile Range is calculated and they will never again be challenged by a book that is too difficult or inadvertently on purpose pick up a book that is too easy. The website, as I mentioned above, even gives examples of books that fall within the Lexile range of the child while also including the topics they picked as their faves. We wouldn’t want a child who loves fiction accidentally picking up a fantasy book, now would we?
Whew! What a relief. Except, come to think of it, fantasy IS a type of fiction! Uh oh, I foresee a slight glitch in the program.
Teachers and/or parents can also get in on the action by having books evaluated for their Lexile score – because how else will you know what books to give your kids to read? The rules for this are slightly more complex. Poetry, songs or anything with non-traditional punctuation cannot be analyzed for a Lexile score. It says you should analyze “books”. Except – of course – books of poetry or books by authors who don’t use traditional punctuation. So Shel Silverstein is out. Sorry Shel, no Lexile score for you. Does this mean anybody can read his books or nobody can read his books?
You also can’t score “multiple choice questions”. Huh? Or “student writing”. Because student writing isn’t “real” writing or because we wouldn’t want kids to know their writing sucks or because we wouldn’t want some kid’s writing to score higher on the Lexile Range than the books they are allowed to read?
Once I got to the part about how to properly format your chosen text so that it can be analyzed, my eyes sort of started to glaze over. Leave out all chapter headings, page numbers, incomplete sentences, headings, subheadings etc. etc. Really? Do they really expect anyone to take the time to format AN ENTIRE BOOK, reading through and taking out incomplete sentences – because no author ever writes dialogue where someone says “What the – ” or “Hey where are you-” or other such non-analyzable stuff – and TYPING it all into their website so that they can tell you whether or not to hand it to your child based on absolutely irrelevant, asinine questions and an even more irrelevant LEXILE SCORE?
That sound you just heard was my head exploding.
A little over a year ago my son, who was just 8 at the time, started reading the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins. I’m sure that had he been given a Lexile score at that time, these books would have showed as out of his range. But that is the beauty of reading. If a subject interests you, you push yourself beyond your “level”. It’s called reading for fun, and left to their own devices and with a subject they like, kids do it all the time. On the other hand, I read the Overlander books for the first time about 6 months before my son did. They would have been well below my Lexile Score had I been given one. But I loved them. They are compelling and well-written and that’s what I look for in any book. (I also love Shel Silverstein, for the record.)
If you’ve never heard of the Lexile Score, you’re not missing anything. If you have, try and forget it. It’s worthless and will do more harm to the ability and desire of a child to read than any tiny amount of good it could possibly contain. If your kid has been given one, toss it in the trash.
Books are gateways to the world. Through them kids stretch their minds and imaginations and with encouragement they will happily tackle the toughest writing when the subject is of interest. And if it’s too difficult? So what? They can always stop, choose something more accessible and try again in a year or two.
Bottom line? The Lexile Score can kiss my—–unconventionally punctuated incomplete sentenced a*#!