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The pros and cons of leveled readers

Leveled readers #1These days, if you enter any elementary school classroom, the chances are good that you’ll encounter leveled readers organized into colorful bins with letters or numbers indicating the challenge level of the books contained inside. With the rise of literacy approaches such as guided reading, many hail leveled readers as a critical component of effective reading instruction.

The premise behind leveled readers is that students will acquire the skills needed to become proficient readers when they practice using those skills while reading text that is at a “just right” level. In theory, then, if students are reading a text that is not “just right,” they are not as effectively able to practice applying the desired skills because the text is either too challenging to allow them to focus on the skill at hand or too simplistic for them to need to use the desired skill.

As packages, leveled reading systems usually contain a selection of titles at various reading levels, assessments or other tools for determining the “just right” level for students, suggestions for how to design literacy instruction by grouping students at similar reading levels, and tools for determining when a student has progressed to the next reading level.

Like most approaches to instruction, implementation undoubtedly impacts the potential efficacy of using leveled readers in the classroom. When examining leveled readers, it is important to keep in mind that they are used in a variety of different ways and for a number of different purposes. For example, in some places, leveled readers are used during guided reading and then students are allowed to freely choose their own books during other literacy activities. In other places, leveled readers are used in all literacy activities so that students are always reading in a “just right” book. In still other places, leveled texts are used for reading intervention purposes.

At this point, regardless of how they are used, leveled readers seem to be here to stay, but I believe that it is worth examining how their use aligns with our goals of creating not only skilled readers, but readers who will be passionate about engaging with books throughout their lives.

In my next few posts on Lolly’s classroom, I plan to critically examine the use of leveled readers in three different areas: the quality of texts provided in leveled reading systems; the alignment of the approach with motivation theory; and the practice of grouping students based on reading levels.

Throughout this series of posts, I hope that readers of this blog will share their thoughts about and experiences with the leveled reading systems that they may be using in their classrooms or schools. I look forward to exploring this ubiquitous, but often unexamined, facet of elementary literacy instruction.

This is the first installment of a four-part series
which will run over the next three Thursdays.

Nicole Hewes About Nicole Hewes

Nicole Hewes is currently serving as an impact manager at a public elementary school with City Year New Hampshire. She previously taught second grade in rural Maine for two years and received an M.Ed in language and literacy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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Comments

  1. By leveled books do you mean only the prepackaged leveled texts or also the levels trade books we elementary teachers encourage our readers to read?
    And, you are 100% correct about implementation making or breaking a teaching tool.

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