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On leveled reading — or leveled reading didn't make me a life long reader: 06/30/16
Lolly's Crassroom on the Horn Book site has a post about the troubles with leveled reading: "Does leveled reading create life-long readers?" The tl:dr answer is probably not and it might even discourage children from becoming life long readers.
The blog post brought back memories of my elementary school years. I had brushes with leveled reading in kindergarten and again in fifth and sixth grade. I don't believe either experience contributed to my later love of reading. I certainly wasn't a reader (save for a couple favorites) in elementary school.
In kindergarten, I had a teacher who firmly believed in the old Dick and Jane books, the ones my parents were taught on. I remember she had a stack of books that involved a giraffe and depending on which level the book was, the giraffe had more and more interesting (if any of these pre-reader books are ever interesting) adventures. But regardless of the difficulty of the words, each book was only about ten pages and super easy to memorize. I skated through kindergarten and rose to the top of the reading levels on my ability to memorize the books based on the cover art.
That's not to say I couldn't read the books. I wasn't illiterate, although I suspect I learned more about reading at home than I did in kindergarten or first grade. First grade I don't remember reading anything in class. That teacher was really into what we'd call STEM now. I remember doing lots and lots of simple science experiments (like taste testing apples and sorting them by skin color).
Second grade I remember the teacher reading to us. If we sat still during the grade two appropriate books (no matter how stupid they were) then we got to hold her pet snake. I sat still because I liked the snake. She read us only from Yearling like How to Eat Fried Worms and Freckle Juice. They weren't my thing but she was CONVINCED all second graders liked these books.
Third grade I don't remember reading in class. That was the year that geography was introduced. I think I spent the whole year learning how to read and draw maps. I drew treasure maps, city maps, train maps, etc etc. I rediscovered my love of The Hobbit because of the maps and moon writing.
Fourth grade I was pretty much on probation because of sliding grades in third due to too much map making and not a whole hell of anything else. Because I'd done an intensive work load (essentially everything I had screwed up or ignored in third grade) in the course of the month vacation we had in summer (the joys of a year round school). Fourth grade was lots and lots of math. Mr. V. believed anyone could do any level of math and let us work at our own pace through his twenty year old text books. I worked through all of them.
Then came fifth and sixth grade where I had the same teacher twice. Mrs. Sullivan had the testing system to see which level we were reading at. I think she expected me to come out near
the bottom because of what she'd heard from Mrs. Buttler (my third grade teacher and one of my fourth grade teachers). I came out near the top which meant I put into a group of scifi geeks who had decided to read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.
It took me until my teens to really fall for Jules Verne's books. Sure, I'd seen the Disney movie and I could sing by heart the opening song, A Whale of a Tale, but the Nautilus, other than being a weirdly steampunk (not a word back then) submarine named after an equally weird (but cool) mollusk, was otherwise a black box. I didn't picture it in my head except for Nemo's pipe organ (because I was learning how to play our family Hammond organ — so old it had vacuum tubes). The uber geeks though completely obsessed over the damn submarine, building a scale model of it and ornately detailed blue prints. I felt like I had nothing to contribute to the group discussion of the book. I went home in tears.
So I was given "easier" books to read, the wretched Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. These damn things I had memorized from endless vacation bible sessions. I really didn't want to read them again. So I forced myself through them as quickly as I could and got moved back into the top group. Now the geeks were obsessing over Call of the Wild by Jack London. Again, not my first choice of book back then. I didn't really appreciate him until I moved to the Bay Area.
I didn't really become a life long reader until junior high. By that point leveled reading was a thing of the past. I found what worked for me to get excited about books (it wasn't knowing if it was my level) and I went on a long binge of reading things at random (as in picking books from shelves while my eyes were closed).
My teenage reading habits, though, will be a post for another day.