I have the wondrous joy of being a member of the #curiositycrew. A small group of educators that visit about all sorts of things. One that has come up this week as our founder is the inspiration behind the #g2great chat is the topic of reading levels and their use in school. #g2great is looking at this topic in its weekly chat (6:30pm MST Thursday)
Now the topic of reading levels, for those that are not really in the “literacy world”, tends to boil down to if we should or shouldn’t apply levels to libraries or base students instruction on their reading levels. Personally, I think the topic is just another area where there seems to be a lot of grey area but not a lot of people in the grey.
I feel like there are too many that think the words reading levels are just the worst thing to happen to education and others who feel that if you do not level your students and libraries you are committing malpractice. For me, I think levels have a place but it is not in the conversations my students are having with one another. It is not for the parents in a conference to ask, “What level are they?” and it is not for the librarian or teacher to limit student options for what to read.
Levels should play a part in informing a teachers instruction, a part of helping students build their skills with a text that they can work with, that will test them, stretch them but not frustrate them…too much. Levels should help me locate the best books for my students as a part of the equation but never the whole equation.
See, the problem I see is that two groups have gone too far in either direction. Levels to inform are not malpractice or some kind of oppressive force unless the teacher is using them that way. Teachers that are purposeful about using a leveled library that targets students areas of growth are not betraying their students’ rights to joyful book experiences, they are guiding their students to texts that they can experience success and grow with. On the other hand, teachers that do not believe in levels and avoid them are not causing harm, AS LONG AS they are still guiding students to successful books or at the very least providing the tools to make good book choices.
I use to have a leveled library complete with AR points listed in the books, those who know me likely just gasped out loud, trust me I had a hard time typing that but it was true. I was lead on a path in literacy that placed its focus on the wrong place. Thankfully I started paying attention to my students. Not their levels, not their labels but them. Their reading choices, their reading habits, their reading life.
Going too far in one direction is only going to put us further apart and make it hard to see the true reason we do what we do, our students. Levels used properly are a tool that can lead to powerful literacy growth. Not utilizing and paying attention to your students reading level can have tragic results.
In the end, it is the teacher and the student and their relationship that is the magic literacy ingredient. Not if you use a level or not, but if you see your student as a learner or a level.
Also just so we are clear AR is the worst but that can be for another day 🙂