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    Joined: Mar 2010
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    MegMeg Offline OP
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    DD6 took a big leap forward in reading, and out of curiosity I looked up the level of some of the books. According to this site, they range from late 2nd grade through 5th grade. How meaningful is this?

    Can a few difficult words bump a book up to the higher grade levels? (We're using advanced picture books rather than Easy Readers, hence not a carefully controlled vocabulary climate.) Also, the "interest level" ratings on this site are really whack, which makes me doubt the whole thing.

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    I heard somewhere that the main thing used to level books at the lower levels is the spacing of the page. That is, how they look.

    I have never found reading levels to be very meaningful for our kids (who were early and self-taught readers). If I had a child with a reading disability, I bet I'd be watching them like a hawk, though, for the off chance they were revealing...

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    Val Offline
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    I'm a bit dubious about those rating tools and tend to see them as solutions in search of problems. For example, Accelerated Reader (AR) gave Dune a reading level of grade 5.7. The Lexile level for this book is also fifth grade. The interest level AR gives this book (grades 9-12) is better, but anyone who's ever read Dune would know that it's way above a fifth grade level. Interestingly, the Lexile rating talks about "power words" in each book that "each student should know." One of the power words in Dune was fluffy. Adult and bald were two others. I can't help but wonder if Lexile was analyzing the same book I was reading:

    Quote
    Through Paul’s mind flashed the related knowledge, the hunter-seeker’s limitations: Its compressed suspensor field distorted the vision of its transmitter eye. With nothing but the dim light of the room to reflect his target, the operator would be relying on motion – anything that moved. A shield could slow a hunter, give time to destroy it, but Paul had put aside his shield on the bed. Lasguns would knock them down, but lasguns were expensive and notoriously cranky of maintenance – and there was always the peril of explosive pyrotechnics if the laser beam intersected a hot shield. The Atreides relied on their body shields and their wits.

    Now, Paul held himself in near catatonic immobility, knowing he had only his wits to meet this threat.

    Fifth grade? Seriously, I would hope that fluffy and bald haven't become fifth-grade power-words, and as for compressed suspensor field? I don't even know what that means.

    Tools like AR and Lexile give scores that reflect "text difficulty:"

    Originally Posted by Lexile levels
    Lexile measures are based on two well-established predictors of how difficult a text is to comprehend: word frequency and sentence length.

    Frank Herbert used advanced vocabulary in Dune and he made up umpteen words. However, he re-used them, which may explain why the book got its fifth-grade rating.


    The AR and Lexile scores can be useful if you're trying to get a basic idea about a book's grade level score, but honestly, I'm not sure what kind of value that number really offers. The scores for Henry and Mudge and the original Nancy Drew books seem about right, but it isn't like the audiences for these books were big secrets until Lexile came along. wink

    I tried to use AR and Lexile to find books for my kids when they were younger, but I gave up because I didn't find them to be terribly helpful. However, I'm cynical about this kind of thing and see it as an industrial approach (calculating "grade level" using a standardized algorithm) to a challenge that's very much about an individual ("What kind of books will my kid like to read?"). YMMV.

    Last edited by Val; 08/03/14 05:15 PM. Reason: Solutions in search of problems
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    I think it's a good question- my inexpert thoughts- reading levels may have meaning if kids are struggling with reading.

    I have found that people (kids and people in general) who enjoy reading and don't struggle with it, tend to read at many levels with variety. What advanced readers don't seem to enjoy is formulaic plot- unless, like me, they are a sucker for a happy ending, and occasionally read such a book for escape.

    My DS7 is supposedly way above grade level in reading- but I know it's only certain kinds of reading. The kind that involves adventure/mystery/fantasy and is primarily plot driven. He is probably only a year or two above level when it comes to realistic fiction- especially understanding a character. I think that character driven books tend to be more difficult for most people because it requires advanced understanding- and for kids, more experience than they may yet possess.

    Just thoughts:)

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    Kai Offline
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    I played around with Lexile levels several years ago. What I found was that sentence length is huge, and what is considered a sentence is what is surrounded by periods. So, for example, I typed up a chapter of a Magic Tree House book. MTH is notorious for having sentence fragments everywhere. I used the Lexile analyzer to find the Lexile level of the chapter as written and then I went through and normalized the text, so that the fragments were incorporated into complete sentences. The only words I added were things like "and." Anyway, the grade level of the original text with all the fragments was something like 2.0 and the grade level of the properly written text was something like 4.0--which was what I was expecting.

    The Reading Counts levels are pretty good. They show Lexile level, which is sort of a brute force method for calculating reading level, as well as interest level and their own grade level, which is based on Lexile level and other intangibles.

    I found all of this helpful when I was trying to track my HGish dyslexic son's reading progress. I found it less helpful with my younger son, who is HG+ and doesn't have dyslexia.

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    I think some of the reading level systems like Fountas and Pinnel or Guided Reading take into account the complexity of the text in terms of theme, concepts, vocabulary etc. whereas the lexile system seems more interested in measuring decoding or how difficult a text would be to read fluently. So there may be a certain book that is very simple to read but hard to understand, and those would be given a higher reading level than what it would appear on the surface, or by the lexile value.

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    Such an interesting thread -- so many good points. Val, YES to everything you said! Kai, I love your MTH experiment. Very revealing. And Blackcat -- "simple to read but difficult to understand." How about the emotional depth in a book like The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane"? The language isn't difficult but the themes are mature in the very best sense.

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    Kai, I'm gonna pm you when tomorrow. (Too late here for me to be coherent.) I would really love to pick your brain.

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    MegMeg Offline OP
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    The experimentalist in me would love to fool around with this. What happens if you take, say, a relatively short "5th grade" book and remove the single most difficult word? The two most difficult words? Etc. I bet these ratings don't exhibit "graceful degradation."

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    Karma, by Ostlere, has a Lexile of 400. It's a wonderfully complex book, full of imagery and allusions. It's also written in diary format with free verse and sentence fragments. The small number of words on each page evidently give it the low Lexile number.

    In short, no reading level scheme is perfect. The ones that appear best for my use, are those that use a variety of measures, including vocabulary, complexity of sentence structure, and aspects of comprehension. When my kids were younger, Fountas and Pinnel and DRA levels were most useful. Once they each hit ~4th or 5th grade level, it doesn't seem to matter as much.

    When it comes to assessing a reading level for school, reading levels sometimes appear random, as they can be so sensitive to subjective judgement from the teacher and from one text to the next. We've found that progress assessed by one teacher through a year is reasonable feedback. Correlating scores across years is problematic, particularly when disabilities are considered (e.g., DS has a speech disability that affects his oral reading accuracy and rate.)

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