Reading Strategies Develop Through Practice

Calculated and methodical reading strategies will improve your child's reading, but today, with the misguided (or is it?) Common core agenda for reading, I suspect parents aren't sure what their children should be reading.

Having taught literature for more than 20 years, having more than 80 college hours of literature and writing, and having taught reading to almost 4,000 students, I have a few insights I'd like to share. 

Common Core Reading Levels are very Misleading.

Here's the problem. On the right are the current lexile levels and the new "standards" set by the Common Core, which shows the progressive stretching to higher reading levels that your children are supposed to achieve. 

On a superficial level, a few more points here and there don't seem to be too radical.

But before I continue, let's set a parameter for this conversation.

I am going to talk ONLY about the average child.


Because exceptions (that is, those children one and two standard deviations above the mean and those one and two standard deviations below the mean) don't PROVE the rule. Most children like most adults are average. 

SO WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE PUSH AND PUSH AND PUSH AND PUSH  an average child to meet the "standard"?

Current Lexile Band

K–1  N/A  

2–3  450L–725L

4–5   645L–845L 

6–8   860L–1010L 

9-10  960L–1115L

11–12 1070L–1220L 

New Common Core Stretch Lexile Band

K-1     N/A

 2-3     420L-820L

4-5      740L–1010L 

6-8      925L–1185L

9-10    1050L–1335L

11-12  1185L–1385L

     Here are just a couple of examples: 

  • the activity isn't fun anymore
  • the child feels stressed and pressured
  • the parent develops a gnawing worry deep inside her gut that she's failing her child
  • the parent loses confidence
  • the child feels like a failure
  • the child may grow to resent a world that demands so much

Trust me; during the 25 years I taught, I saw many parents break down in tears about their children's lack of progress. Parents care, and setting "standards" like this is not one of the reading strategies that will solve the reading problems in the world.

However, creating fear and panic and insecurity in parents does make it easier to control them. I'm not saying that is the goal of Common Core. Perhaps, it's just one of its perks.

Literature Lexile Levels

A Lexile level is a measure of how difficult a book may be to read based on the sentence length and frequency of words  on the page. It reflects nothing about a child's ability to interpret or comprehend what she has read in any way other than a basic level. Here is a list of modern classics and their lexile numbers.

All of them can be downloaded to an e-reader, but I personally love and own Kindles. 

600 Lexile books

630 - Of Mice and Men

680 The Grapes of Wrath

680 - The Illustrated Man 

700 Lexile books

710 -The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

760 - The Catcher in the Rye

760 - The Maltese Falcon

770 - Lord of the Flies

800 Lexile books

840 - For Whom the Bell Tolls

840 - The Man in the Iron Mask

840 - The Kite Runner

870 - The Sound and the Fury

870 - Brave New World

870 - To Kill a Mockingbird

900 Lexile books

930 - On the Road

940 - The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe                  (Get a free study guide here.)

950 - A Passage To India

970 - Oliver Twist

1000 Lexile books

1000 - The Hobbit

1010 - My Antonia

1050 - The Odyssey

1070 - The Great Gatsby

1070 - Atlas Shrugged

1080 - Anna Karenina

1090 - 1984

1100 Lexile books

1100 - As You Like It

1100- Oedipus

1200 Lexile books

1200 - Sons and Lovers (I'm not recommending it for children. Just letting you know its lexile level. )

1270 - The Scarlet Letter

1300 Lexile books

1320 - Aristotle's Poetics

(It was pretty slim pickins here, but this book as are all the Greek classics are mentally challenging.)

1400 Lexile books

1420 - The Scarlet Letter (Yes, the same book, but probably a different passage was measured.) 

Good reading strategies develop from using study guides and progressively challenging books. 

  • Should a 4th grader read The Sound and the Fury
  • Is The Catcher in the Rye too low level for an 11th grader? 
  • Should a 2nd grader read the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath

Parents, Use These Guidelines Instead

If you are a homeschooling parent, I think it's important to be aware of the Common Core "standards"  in your book selections. A good offense is a good defense. I say this because I don't think that our right to homeschooling is sacrosanct. 

If your children are still in the public schools, I think you should be aware of the books being chosen for your children in order to reach these higher levels of the Common Core "standards." 

In the meantime, follow these reading strategies to improve your child's reading. 

Respect Reading First

Here's a biggie. When a person is reading, it looks like she is doing nothing, so almost everyone feels it's okay to interrupt that person.

One of the reading strategies that all parents must adopt is to respect reading time. For crying out loud, let a kid finish a paragraph or a chapter before making her get up to wash the dishes or put away her clothes.

What? They won't be there when she's done?

Reading is a greater skill than simple manual labor. It's thinking; it's developing dendrites; it's making synaptical connections in her brain.  

When do you think she's going to do that? When she's got three children herself and supper to get on the table?  

Reading will change her life -- LET IT. 

Thank you, grammarly. 

Image taken from a FB page. If you know where, I'm happy to give proper credit. Thank you. 

Control Your TV

I hate to get tough with you, but you must turn it off.

Being in another room isn't enough for a beginning reader.

After a while, when your child has fallen in love with reading, she can probably ignore it, but WHY, OH WHY, are you making it so hard for her?

Most people are visual learners and when it's combined with the audio, it's just too distracting. I'm speaking for myself too. 

If you can make a "NO TV AN HOUR BEFORE DINNER" household rule, then do it. Otherwise, create a time when your child is most alert and calm so she can learn to read. 

To read my other suggestions for improving your child's reading strategies, click on this reading strategies link.

To read how you can engage your child with reading by sharing books, click here. 

All of the books listed above have study guides to complement them. Using a one also will improve a child's reading strategies.  To learn more about study guides, click here. 

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