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Continuing the Discussion on Reading Levels...

... I have a post up about that this morning at Booklights about this whole issue of pushing kids to read ever more challenging books, with a few links to posts that came out after my previous post. That post went live at 6:00 EST, and since then I've already run across three other thoughtful posts on the topic.

At Bookmuse, Robin Gibson talks about the importance of guiding readers as individuals, and the problems with using the term "above grade level" at all. I like Robin's post, but especially her last point: "And while I do regret children being denied pictures, as some have expressed, what is worse to me is not being read to anymore. Many times the proud parent of a new reader still in one of the early grades will say something like, “now I don’t have to read aloud anymore.” For me, this is the real tragedy. That time spent together, those memories created, the inside jokes that become part of the family — that is indeed a loss."

Author Rick Riordan takes on the topic of kids reading advanced books, saying, among other things: "Growing up is not a race. For one thing, it's sad when kindergartners skip over kindergarten books, because they're missing an awful lot of good, age appropriate literature. For another thing, they won't appreciate the older books as much as they would when they're . . . well, older." He also recommends (which I LOVE), "Rather than the 'five finger' method, I usually suggest something much more time-consuming, but much more accurate. When in doubt, the parent should read the book. If it still seems good for your child, then go for it. Have a family discussion about the content."

[Side note: In case there's any doubt as to why I'm such a fan, Rick is clearly a kindred spirit. On Booklights this morning, completely independently, I said: "The short-term problem is that children can miss books that they would enjoy reading. Books about kids their own age, having relatable experiences. Fun books. Books with pictures! Instead, they can end up reading books before they are ready for them, which often leads to not appreciating the books, and never going back."  And of course I have entire posts about parents reading the books that their kids are reading.]

Rick's post was inspired by a post at ShelfTalker by Josie Leavitt about how to handle requests from nine-year-old girls for Twilight. She says: "My fear is twofold -- the first is they are coming to a good book too early and they won't get out of the book what they would if they read it at the right age. The second issue is now that these girls are reading about characters so much older, they won't have patience or the desire to read about children their own age." Josie concludes with a plea for help: "So, how do I, as a bookseller, gently sway parents from buying a book their child is so obviously happy to read, but I feel is far too old? It's a question I've been grappling with, unsuccessfully, for weeks. Any tips would be greatly appreciated." Yeah, she's a kindred spirit, too.

Clearly, this is a topic that a lot of people are struggling with. Perhaps by spreading the word, by talking and asking questions, we can all make a difference.