by Irene Fountas, Author and Director of the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative at Lesley University
In response to the many comments the blog has received this week on the Text Levels- Tool or Trouble blog post:
You have shared many important thoughts on the topic of text levels. Of course, children should read the books they want to read—those that engage their interests and that will bring them enjoyment throughout their lives. Levels are simply not for children and should not serve as another means of labeling them and damaging their self-esteem. Nor do they belong on books in libraries or on report cards.
Levels have an important place in the hands of teachers who understand them. Many of you have found the instructional benefit of levels in assessment and in the teaching of reading, so you can support each child’s successful reading development across the grades. When a text is too difficult to support new learning in small groups, the reader becomes passive and teacher dependent. Reading becomes laborious and nonproductive. When a text is just right, the reader can process it with successful problem-solving and expands his reading power with the teacher’s support. We hope teachers go beyond the level label to understand and use the ten text characteristics to understand the demands of texts on readers.
The classroom text base needs to include a variety of texts for a variety of purposes. All children deserve numerous opportunities every day to choose books to read and participate with peers in listening to and sharing age-appropriate books that fully engage their intellect, emotions and curiosity. Alongside these opportunities, all children deserve responsive teaching in small groups for a part of their day with books that are leveled to support the continuum of competencies that enable them to become independent, lifelong readers.
Each of you can advocate with your school team to educate all involved in the appropriate and effective use of levels as one small part of an excellent instructional program that meets the needs of diverse students.