Layman’s Tips to Readability
Readability formulas can leave teachers and parents alike in a tizzy. It all sounds so, well, mathematical. And I am, after all, a language arts lady—not a math teacher!
Here are some quick, layman’s tips for readability:
1. Understand that not all readability levels are the same. If, for example, a book is said to be a 2.9 readability level, that does not mean it is at a second grade level. First of all, readability levels (along with grade level equivalencies of standardized tests), mean that a student working at that particular grade level can read that book (or would get that score, in the case of a standardized test). In the score, 2.9, the nine is critical. It means that this book is at the level that a second grader in his NINTH month of second grade should be able to read. There is a huge difference between 2.0 and 2.9 in terms of readability. A student who can read books at a 2.9 readability has nine months of second grade instruction over one who reads at 2.0—that’s a whole school year.
2. Five Finger Rule—If your child opens a chapter book and misreads five words right off the bat, that book is probably too difficult for your reader (unless, as I mentioned earlier, he or she is extremely motivated to read it).
3. Ninety Percent Rule—For silent reading, your student should be able to read ninety percent (or more) of the words in a given book or reading material.
4. Seventy Percent Rule—For oral reading with you (as you are “guiding” him like a tutor or classroom teacher would), a student can usually get by with reading at a seventy percent accuracy rate (again, this is word calling). You will be there to cue and coach him on the remaining thirty percent of mis-reads.
5. How important is readability? Do you need to “level” everything your child reads, look it up online, be sure it isn’t too hard, etc.? Maybe a little at the beginning of your child learning to read—probably not at all later. I personally took all of my readers and laid them out on the table in the order that the books said they were (i.e. a book that was supposed to be a “second grade” reader was laid in a line before ones that said that they were “third grade”). Ones that did not have levels were laid where they seemed to fit. Then I opened each one up and examined it more closely and reordered them accordingly. Once I did this, I wrote in the upper right corner of the first page where I thought it fell in all my readers—giving them either a first semester or a second semester rating—2 first semester or 2 second semester. Then I shelved them in order and we had all of our reading material for oral reading. I could pull off easier ones for silent readers and keep the harder ones for oral reading.
If you are just helping your child through the summer, you should work towards reading fluency (as described earlier), then move into harder books that your child enjoys (more on this older group in the coming days). Then you can continue reading those enjoyable books through the school year for additional reading help.
Tomorrow—final readability post, including links to find readability levels of your child’s favorite books.