Leveled Readers Versus Organic Story

Ever wonder why kids read these “leveled reader” books labeled levels 1-3? What are they about? They are popular in schools during “just right” independent reading time.

It’s true, they are convenient and due to their carefully curated word lists, are largely non-stressful to kids. But, what do kids learn by reading them?

A book I read recently called me to question how much my kids should be reading them. Why Knowledge Matters by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. presents an interesting commentary on the readers. In his book, Hirsch mentions how many kids are not getting read aloud to by teachers and parents. Instead, during their reading time they are picking up these readers and reading to themselves. On the good side: students work on decoding and sight words in a targeted way — but, the drawback is that young students do not get is the vocabulary challenge they would get by hearing stories; stories that are several lexile levels above them, and the freshness of hearing new words in new contexts.

Contextualized challenge vocabulary — Hirsch says — will give life long learning skills to our children, and actually help to extend vocabulary more than books developed with carefully thought out word lists. Being read aloud to gives real stretching that will give kids tools to face those difficult books they will get in college and grad school — and understand and learn from them!

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