The Lexile Range (or how to completely take all the joy out of reading)

Ever heard of a Lexile score?

Me either.

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 .   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*#!



16 comments on “The Lexile Range (or how to completely take all the joy out of reading)

  1. Mine too. Sad that those school kids had heard of this score thing, though! Whew.

  2. Al says:

    Thanks. My older daughter was an avid reader.You couldn’t get her to stop. Then she hit 2nd grade and they told her she had to read for at least 20 minutes a day, write down that she had done it and have on of us parental units initial. That was it. Couldn’t get her to read after that. Now that she has be de-schooled she has gradually gotten back into reading. I’m determined not to let the same thing happen to my younger daughter.

    • Amy says:

      Hi Al,

      Yep, I hear that over and over from kids in school. Once reading is forced on them, once they must read specific texts, they lose all interest. I’m so happy your daughter has regained her interest in reading!


  3. M says:

    And, silly me, I thought I had heard everything………………. guess not.

  4. What’s particularly annoying, as an author and publisher, is that I’ve had a lot of teachers UNABLE to purchase my books for their classrooms because they don’t neatly fit into certain Lexile ranges. Silly me, we were going by what kids actually like reading, rather than making sure that all the words were a certain level of simple. I’d put in glossaries for tough words. I thought that was more than sufficient… Yet, authors are being told that they can’t have their books published without meeting this “goal”… I’m not a fan, either.

    • Amy says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for the comment – yes, how silly of you to try and write books based on what kids actually enjoy!! I am hopeful that the Lexile Range will eventually go the way of the dodo, and in the meantime, the kids lucky enough not to be encumbered with a Lexile Score can enjoy your books at will.

      Best Regards,

  5. Laura says:

    I just know that as a kid I would have refused to stay in my predetermined range!
    As a 10 year old I chose “The count of Monte Christo” because we were allowed to choose which book we wanted to present in class and my mom (who is French) told me about it. And then I also enjoyed “easy” children’s books that I could read in a couple of hours.

  6. TN Teacher says:

    I’m a sixth grade English/Language Arts teacher in a middle school. Several weeks ago my principal walked into my classroom during the middle of my class and instructed me (in no uncertain terms) to immediately stop reading A Wrinkle in Time with my students. We were three chapters into the book and were taking a test at that particular time. I was told that I must stop reading this book with my class based solely on the fact that the lexile measure was too low for sixth grade. My principal was unconcerned about all of the factors that make this book an excellent choice for sixth graders. The ONLY reason I had to stop using it immediately was because of the “too low” lexile measure. Furthermore, my principal is forcing our librarian to purge ALL books from our library that are below 925L. The books must be physically removed from our library and given to the elementary school. Our library has been closed indefinitely until all of the books can be properly “lexiled” or purged. It is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard, and I am powerless to fight against it. I need my job.

  7. Helen Sterns says:

    How awful! I am actually quite happy to be able to challenge myself and read books above my lexile range! I think it’s fine, and my school is filled with kids who LOVE to read, even though we all have to read at or above our range and take reading counts tests every time we read a book. It’s not bad, it’s just a way to see where you are at in reading. Actually, we CAN read below our range, but it’s just encouraged to read at or above. Now, purging a library of all books below a certain range is just stupid and unnecessary. Kids can read what they want! Geez!

  8. Jana says:

    I have a 5th and 3rd grader and this is the first year I’ve heard of a lexile score. Both kids got scores in Aug and then tested again in Oct. Both scores dropped about 100 points since the beginning of school ie. during the time that they were required to read lexiled books. I explained to the kids that I do not read books based on lexile and neither should they. If you choose a book at school and ANYBODY has a problem with it, tell them to call your mother. Fact is, the 3rd grader is advanced and there is not much out there on her “level” that is also appropriate for an 8 year old to read. 5th grader has dyslexia and has the opposite problem. Kids are individuals and I do not for one second believe that a computer program (bc the tests are totally computer administered, no teaching involved) can begin to know my children well enough to select reading material for them.

  9. Brandy says:

    I 100% AGREE!!!! I have a son, now in 4th grade, who has always had a strong love of reading. He used to love to read, ALL the time, ALL on his OWN. The first few years in school the Lexile level was no biggie, because even though they took tests on what they read, they were allowed to read anything they wanted. Might I also add, that these first few years he was in school his “Lexile Level” grew by leaps and bounds, and he was on a 4th grade level in 1st grade. However, at some point mid-way through 3rd grade, they suddenly became forced to read within their “Just right” Lexile Level, give or take 100 points in either direction from their actual lexile level. Well, here we are a year later, and not only has his lexile level stayed pretty much the SAME for a YEAR (it grew by 15 points), but NOW, my son who once read all the time, HATES to read. Now does this make sense to ANYONE who HAS any sense? Because I just cannot wrap my head around How can our schools, and governments can implement things like this without being sure they WORK rather than ruin not only our childrens educational GROWTH,but also their love of learning. And furthermore, how can they NOT realize 2 after a fews of it being implemented that it ISN’T working? Should the teachers be raising more **** or should we as parents be doing that? Because I’m not even quite sure, and I’m having a extremely hard time figuring it out, WHO to complain to exactly about this lexile level stupidity. According to the school it’s not up to the school, according to the county BOE, it’s not up to them, according the to the state and federal BOE’s, they only accept complaints about misuse of funds or discrimination. Does anyone here know who we grip to about this?

  10. Brandy says:

    And the other problem is the rating system, WHY are the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books above his reading level, but Roald Dahl is not? I’m sorry, I’ve read “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, AND all of the Wimpy Kid books, and I have no idea who scored these books or how they came up with what they did. The claim it has something to do with # of words and sentence complexity, but even so Wimpy Kid should not be above many others below it…at least not in my mind

  11. Mo says:

    In defense of both sides of this issue.
    Lexile is typically used as ONE of several factors for book selection. Even its developers will state that in all of its literature and sites. Anyone who uses a lexile score as the sole determining factor for book selection is… well…needs to be trained in the area of effective reading instruction.

  12. Tracy tran says:

    This is a great article. I agree with you 100% that lexile is absolutely ridiculous. My daughter’s school library is now letting kids check out books based on their lexile level, which is determined by the very “scientific” method that you mentioned. I’m so angry and I’m gonna talk to her teacher about it. Again thanks for the spot on article. I’m so glad I stumbled upon it.

  13. anonymous says:

    Gregor series books (Lexile rating of 630) are rated for second grade (Lexile range of 390-690). Looks like the Lexile score hit the mark. By the way, when a reader’s Lexile score/range matches a book, the expectation is not that the reading is perfectly matched to current reading comprehension levels, but rather that the reader is expected to comprehend approximately 75% of the content, thereby presenting a challenging read from which to learn and expand one’s reading abilities. Now, can this be accomplished with scientific precision? Surely the answer is no. But the Lexile system might very well be at least good enough most of the time such that it nearly accomplishes its goal of improving readers’ abilities at a reasonable rate.

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