Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bad Kitty Says "No!" to Lexile Levels

Meet Kevin Lester,* sixth grader:
  • On each of this year's reading assessments, Kevin has proven his ability to read at the 12.9+ grade level.  
  • Last month, Kevin took first place in the city-wide Science Fair, competing against students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade.
  • This past weekend, he participated in the middle school State Ready Writing competition and took second place. As he explained to me after class this morning, "Last year, I wrote a very serious and detailed essay, and I didn't place at all.  So this year, I decided to change my strategy and write something really wacky." (Apparently, it worked.)
In other words, Kevin is REALLY smart.

     You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when I noticed him reading Nick Bruel's Bad Kitty for President during Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) this week.

     At a Lexile level of 690 (approximately the 4th grade reading level), Bad Kitty is perfectly appropriate for a struggling sixth grade reader.  But Kevin?  Sidling up to his desk, I nonchalantly inquired, "So what do you think of that book?"
     Grinning from ear to ear, Kevin gave me a big thumbs up and went back to reading.  Hmm.  Clearly, he likes it.  And why?


     If you're familiar with middle school children, you know that they are ALL over the place -- physically, mentally, socially, psychologically, and every other '-ly.'  Depending on which aspect of the whole child you're discussing, one middle school boy like Kevin can be a bizarre hodge-podge of ages ranging from 8 to 18.  That, in a nutshell, is why they're so weird!  Who can blame them?
     Given all those variables, can you understand why it's a little silly to restrict children's reading to materials in their Lexile range?  If I were to follow that protocol, here's a sampling of what Kevin would be digging into this week:

A Theory of Conceptual Intelligence by Rex Li, or

Fyodor Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamzov, 
or this beloved sixth-grade classic:

Annotations on First Corinthians by Philipp Melanchthon.

     Are you kidding me?  No offense to the really smart guys who wrote those books, but even I don't want to read them!  
     If Kevin Lester is smart enough to beat out all the other sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade participants in the city-wide Science Fair, I think we can trust him to choose the books he'll enjoy reading on any given day.  Obviously, he didn't get to the 12.9+ reading level on a strict diet of Bad Kitty books, right? As for those three books you see above:  They're a full 100 Lexile points BELOW Kevin's actual reading level.  I couldn't find any books on a high enough level for him at
     If I have to choose between making Kevin Lester* read books "appropriate" for his reading level or allowing him to devour the occasional silly morsel of his own choosing, Bad Kitty for President will get my vote every time.

* Children's names have been changed to protect the innocent.  As usual, all adults are guilty as charged.