One More Tool to Match Readers to Texts

The Lexile Framework for Reading offers a good starting point for educators and parents attempting to make decisions as to whether or not the complexity of a text is well-matched to the reading level of a particular reader.  As articulated by the Common Core State Standards, the Lexile Framework provides a good measure of the quantitative dimensions of a text.  Meaning, the Lexile measure reflects the types of words and sentences used in a particular text; and, when matched to the Lexile reading level of a student, provides useful information on the student’s likely level of comprehension.

Of course there are other things to consider.  A parent or educator should always consider more than just the Lexile measure when attempting to match a young reader to a particular text.  There are qualitative dimensions (themes and content) and reader/task considerations (context, background knowledge) that should be taken into account.  As with any tool, the Lexile Framework is most powerful when used appropriately and as intended – to help match readers to reading material based on text complexity and the reading level of the reader. 

Here is reading expert and CEO of TextProject, Freddy Hiebert offering some useful caveats to educators on using the Lexile Framework appropriately:

Children’s reading performances are heavily influenced by the vocabulary in a text.  Typical word frequency ranges for different grades are given in Table 2.  When word frequency averages are substantially lower than typical grade ranges, teachers should know that students might need some extra vocabulary support.  

And, always remember:  There are big differences in the styles and vocabulary of stories (narratives) and informational texts (content-area texts)…

…Teachers should use the lexile rating as an initial piece of information, much like a check of someone’s temperature.   A temperature can be high or low for lots of different reasons.  The average sentence length and average word frequency gives teachers more specific information that is useful for decision-making.

Hiebert’s cautions are well-taken.  Educators and parents should always consider context when using Lexile measures to assign texts.  Additionally, they should take genre and concept density into account as they seek to match readers to texts.  As Hiebert reminds us, Lexile measures are an excellent starting point when considering the level of text that is appropriate for readers; and the Lexile Framework is a worthwhile addition to the various tools that educators bring to bear in the classroom.

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