Should public libraries level their books?

So we all know that come November, Illinois parents of public school children will be coming to the library with their child’s Lexile score in hand–you can take a look at what the parents will be receiving here. As you can see, parents are advised to “take the student’s Lexile score to the local library,” and you know, there are a couple of things I think would have been nice here. For one thing, it would have been nice if someone had bothered to mention to the public librarians that this was coming. Fortunately, librarians being what we are, most of us found out about it anyway. The other thing I think would have been really nice is if they mentioned that it is perfectly okay for a child to read an unleveled book!

We tossed some alternatives around at our monthly Youth Services Dept. meeting last week, and have begrudgingly concluded that our best alternative is to generate our own leveled reading lists, so at least we are offering our patrons leveled books which we feel represent some good reading choices. Since it is out of the question to level our entire collection for practical reasons alone, at least this way we aren’t ending up searching through an endless list of books off of the Lexile site that our library may or may not own, that may or may not be in the ballpark. I vivdly recall doing a search for a bright sixth grader last year where the books at her level were 32 page animal books (I suppose because of the latin names used?) and Antigone, neither of which seemed quite the right thing for this young lady.

One thing we will not be doing is combining Lexile scores with Accelerated Reader lists, because with apologies to libraries that have decided to go that route, that to me is a sign of the apocalypse. Both Lexile leveling and Accelerated Reader have their place in helping kids develop their reading skills. But to me, the public library should be a refuge from all of that mechanical determination of what a kid should read. Part of becoming a reader is learning what you like to read–if they don’t end up with books that ultimately appeal to them, then we aren’t doing our jobs.

What are other libraries doing to get ready for the Lexile invasion?

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This entry was posted in Children's books, Public libraries, Youth Services. Bookmark the permalink.

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