Text Levels– Tool or Trouble?


By Irene Fountas, Author and Director of the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative


This post was originally published on October 23, 2013

When my colleague Gay Su Pinnell and I created a gradient of text for teachers to use in selecting books for small group reading, we were excited about its potential for helping teachers make good text decisions to support the progress of readers.

Our alphabetic gradient is widely used by teachers for this purpose and has become an essential tool for effective teaching in guided reading lessons.

With every good intention, the levels may have been applied by professionals in ways we would not have intended. We did not intend for levels to become a label for children that would take us back to the days of the bluebirds and the blackbirds or the jets and the piper cubs. Our intention was to put the tool in the hands of educators who understood their characteristics and used it to select appropriate books for differentiated instruction.

We are well aware of the importance of communicating student progress accurately to families. Rather than the use of levels in reporting to families, we have encouraged the use of terms like “reading at grade level expectation” or “reading above grade level expectation” or “not yet reading at grade level expectation” on report cards along with other clear indicators of a student’s processing abilities such as understanding, word-solving abilities, accuracy or fluency. In addition we have encouraged the use of indicators related to amount and breadth of independent reading.

Students actually experience a variety of books at varied levels in a rich literacy program. They may experience complex texts as read aloud or shared reading selections and a range of levels in book discussion groups or independent reading. Highly effective teaching provides a range of opportunities with different texts for different purposes.

In our best efforts to use assessment indicators, we want to be sure that our purposes best serve the children we teach and give families the important information they need. This may not mean using labels such as book levels that hold more complexities and are intended for the use of the educators as they make day-to-day teaching decisions.

Intermediate/Middle School Trainer Opening!

Be a part of our team! We are expanding our Intermediate/Middle School Trainer team and we are looking for an outstanding, experienced literacy coach/trainer to join us! Below are the requirements and more detailed information:

Job Description:

Reporting to the Assistant Director of Intermediate/Middle School programs at the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative, the Intermediate/Middle School Literacy Trainer is responsible for:

• Designing and delivering professional development in a blended format of Literacy Collaborative, Leveled literacy Intervention and related professional development offerings,

• Planning new models of professional development of varying duration, for a range of audiences,

• Serving as a faculty liaison to schools and districts for Literacy Collaborative,

• Authoring/co-authoring materials for program use and to advance the field,

• Presenting at and participating in Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative- sponsored conferences and other educational conferences, and
• Contributing to Program Research and Evaluation of the Center for Reading Recovery offerings.


M.A. or M. Ed. or above in Reading Instruction, Literacy, Elementary Education or a related field required. Must have an extensive understanding of current literacy theory and best practice. Reading Recovery teacher training is preferred. Minimum of five years of successful classroom experience grades 3 – 8 required. Experience in teaching or staff development of in-service and/or graduate level teachers in literacy required. Availability to work a schedule that includes occasional evenings and weekends. Extensive travel to different parts of the country, sometimes for a week at a time, is a regular part of the role. Travel includes driving and/or air travel. A driver’s license is required for this position. Ability to work independently and as part of a team in a fast-paced environment is necessary. Experience in communicating with all levels of school constituents (students, teachers, parents, specialists, principals and/or district administrators) including experience communicating on sensitive educational matters required. Excellent organizational, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills needed. The candidate must be able to use standard Microsoft Office programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), and create PowerPoint and online presentations. An interest in research/writing/online training technology preferred.

If you are interested in applying for this employment opportunity, visit the Lesley website for more information