[kids-lib] The early readers leveling dilemma!

Engelfried, Steven engelfried at wilsonvillelibrary.org
Fri Apr 10 16:01:05 PDT 2015

Early Reader Leveling will be part of our OLA Conference presentation on Friday, April 17th from 2:00 - 3:30 pm:   "Levels, Genres, and Picture Book Topics:  Making Your Children's Collection Reader-Friendly."  Shannon Belford and I will share some of the stuff we've done with children's collections at the Wilsonville Public Library, as well as the reasons we've made changes and how they've worked out.   In addition to Early Reader Leveling, we have Picture Book Topic shelves and Non-Fiction Series shelves that we think have helped readers (and library staff working with them) connect with the books they want....

Steven Engelfried, Youth Services Librarian
Wilsonville Public Library
8200 SW Wilsonville Road
Wilsonville, OR  97070
engelfried at wilsonvillelibrary.org

From: Kids-lib [mailto:kids-lib-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us] On Behalf Of Katie Anderson
Sent: Friday, April 10, 2015 3:33 PM
To: kids-lib at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
Subject: [kids-lib] The early readers leveling dilemma!

There is an excellent conversation taking place via ALA's Association for Library Services to Children listserv about leveling early readers. Here are some elements of the conversation I think many of you will be interested in. Please 'reply all' if you have additional suggestions!

Here are a few important points to remember:

*        Families are desperate for help with early readers! If we struggle with it, imagine how they feel not knowing what we know about selecting the right book for a child?

*        Lots of families get it stuck in their minds that their child should only read books at their level, potentially limiting free voluntary reading and reducing reading enjoyment for young children.

*        Many leveling systems only take decoding and/or comprehension into account-most don't take into account literary merit or child's interest.

*        Different publishers have different leveling systems.

*        The five finger rule doesn't apply to early readers!

Here is a suggestion for all libraries: Create a brochure or bookmark that provides families Tips for Early Readers, the following tips are from Joliet Public Library.
1. Choose a book with a subject matter that interests your child, whether it be funny stories or school stories or information on animals.
2.   Find a book that builds confidence and encourages your child to read.  You want them to experience success and be motivated through struggles.
3. Regularly include informational books in your reading sessions.  Non-fiction has more rare words and usually has a higher reading level, but an interested child will be familiar with the special terms.  These books may require more parental support, but reading non-fiction is a fundamental skill of learning.
4. Try to make reading sessions fun!  If your child is getting frustrated, take a break, keep it positive, and try again later.
5.   Don't stop reading aloud to your child.  Learning to read can be hard work-reading aloud together can keep the love of books and reading alive.

Here is one suggestion for libraries that don't have staff capacity to review, level, and label early readers in their collection-be sure to read the next suggestion to get ideas about criteria for creating your leveled lists!
Create beginning reader level book lists! Here is an example of how Pierce County Library did just that:

*        Level 1 http://tinyurl.com/plhwat8

*        Level 2 http://tinyurl.com/omote3q

*        Level 3 http://tinyurl.com/pw2tvym

*        Level 4 http://tinyurl.com/pnsf7wc

Here is one suggestion for libraries with the staff capacity to review, level, and label early readers in their collection:
What we [Joliet Public Library] have done is create a 4 level system that is able to be consistent within our department.  Two of us have worked together to develop the system, and we are the only people who label the books with levels.  We deliberately have chosen to label using letters, so they cannot be construed as being the numbers of grades (1st, 2nd, 3rd). To aid in keeping people away from getting too stuck in the leveling--all of our Early Reader books are interfiled without regard to level.  They just have an easier time finding those leveled books on the shelf.  Here is what we use:

*        Level A-Mostly sight words with repetitive text and many visual clues.  Few words per page. Still needs parental support.

*        Level B-Many sight words with some words to sound out.  Simple sentence structure.  Still needs parental support.

*        Level C-Longer sentence structure and some rare vocabulary.  Longer text, for readers who are mostly independent.

*        Level D-A short chapter book with more complex sentence structure, vocabulary, and subject matter.  An independent transition to chapter books.

Katie Anderson, Youth Services Consultant
Library Support and Development Services<http://www.oregon.gov/osl/LD/pages/index.aspx>
Oregon State Library, 250 Winter St. NE, Salem, OR 97301
katie.anderson at state.or.us<mailto:katie.anderson at state.or.us>, 503-378-2528
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