Sunday, October 4, 2015

Retrieving: Lexiles at Home

I'm continuing my reading from the blue folder of articles from the 2005 workshop.  It seems that this is a series of articles, designed to be shared with the various populations that will be affected by lexiles.  The article I read this morning was entitled "Lexiles at Home" and was aimed at parents.  Its lexile measure was 1230L.  Again, it contained much of the information covered in the other articles, but its audience was different.  I did, however, find this part to be notable:

"Once you have your child's Lexile measure, you can connect him or her to tens of thousands of books and tens of millions of articles that have Lexile measures.  Most public libraries have access to online periodicals databases where you can search for newspaper and magazine articles by Lexile measure" (1).

This is true. Public libraries do have access to these databases.  10 years after the article was published, I even have access to many of these databases at home (although they are not widely enough advertised that I didn't know about many of them until I started this research).  But as both a parent and a librarian, I find this process to be hugely frustrating.

When I worked as a public librarian, I worked with a local elementary teacher who requested that we provide her classroom with 50 nonfiction books "between 300L and 400L" every month.  Because I had teaching experience, selecting these books usually fell to me.  This was an incredibly time-consuming project that would sometimes take me an entire 6-hour shift to complete.  Pulling promising-looking books from the shelves, then cross-referencing them all with the database, then double-checking to make sure that the class had not already had them earlier in the year, to get up to 50 books every month, was quite a feat.  Even in the children's department, most of our nonfiction books were lexiled higher than 400L, so after a few months, we really struggled to meet the teacher's needs.

Similarly, parents would often bring their children in to the public library and ask for help finding a book to meet the child's lexile.  Compiling a list of books at the appropriate level and finding the books on the shelves took time, and even after that was accomplished, I generally still needed to work with the family to sort out which selections would be appropriate to grade-level and maturity level.  After all of that, students still sometimes weren't able to find one that sparked their interest and left with a book that fit their lexile needs but they weren't excited to read.

Based on the comments I received from my classmates when I selected this project, I gather that these experiences are common for public librarians.  So while MetaMetrics might encourage parents to seek out lexiled materials at the public library, the reality is that most public librarians are not equipped to offer this aid.

As an experienced educator and a librarian, I would think that I am better qualified than most parents to help my own children select lexiled materials for classroom reading.  But ever since my oldest daughter started second grade, this has been a huge frustration for me.  My daughter is a very advanced reader, but she doesn't like anything "scary," and emotionally, she's probably a little below grade level.  So I have an extremely hard time finding anything within her high lexile that has content appropriate to her interests and emotional needs.

Throughout second and third grade, I personally selected her Reading Counts books each quarter (to make sure they were within her lexile and of appropriate emotional content) and then let her do all her pleasure reading below lexile, with books that she was actually interested in.  It was a difficult line to walk.  In fourth grade, she thankfully has a teacher that allows the students to take Reading Counts quizzes with books an accepted "challenge" level of 650L, the content of which is appropriate to grade level. This is nearly 500L lower than my daughter's actual lexile, so she has no problems finding books that she can read and enjoy.

The point to all of this being: MetaMetrics makes it sound like matching students to books within their lexile is a simple task.  In reality, it's not--not for librarians, not for parents.  This reality needs to be taken into consideration when contemplating the system.

"Lexiles at Home."  MetaMetrics, Inc., 2004.

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