Reading Ahead of Grade Level, or NOT
June 12, 2009
I found the link to this article in Rose's Reading Round-Up at First Book, and didn't want to wait until Monday's Children's Literacy Round-Up to share it. Dashka Slater has an article at Babble about why reading ahead of your grade level isn't necessarily a good thing for kids. She says: "in the fuss about literacy and reading levels and school achievement, something fundamental gets lost: the pleasure of the book for its own sake. Books that are delightful for ten-year-olds are not necessarily delightful for six-year-olds, and too often both parents and teachers encourage children to read books that are too old for them, or discourage them from reading books we have deemed "too young," thus guaranteeing that reading will always feel like a chore." And she goes on, with detailed examples, including her nine-year-old Eragon-reading son's response to a new picture book.
Something I get quite often (and I know I'm not alone in this) is a request to recommend titles that will challenge advanced readers, reading far above their grade level, without shocking them. And while I laud the effort to find the right books for each kid, and I completely respect the mom looking for books for her eight-year-old that don't have romance in them, I've also felt that something can get lost in the quest to "challenge" readers. Just because your seven-year-old can read at a sixth grade level, that doesn't mean that she won't enjoy, and shouldn't have the chance to enjoy, Clementine. Same thing for picture books. So many adults LOVE picture books. Or, as the Babble article quotes Valerie Lewis from Hicklebee's, "When they have picture books on their coffee table, they think it's very interesting and arty. But when Billy finally learns to read, his parents reward him by taking away his pictures." (Emphasis mine)
But enough. Go and read the full article at Babble. There are quite a few comments, mainly in support of the article (because really, who is going to admit "but I like bragging about my six-year-old reading Harry Potter. Who cares what he enjoy?").