Free Lexile Resource: Online Databases

Ever wonder how to access a variety of free text resources that match your child’s or student’s reading ability? In most states across the country access to periodical database services is made available to educators, parents, students and other citizens. Some of these periodical database services provide Lexile measures for millions of newspaper and magazine articles, as well as encyclopedia and reference content. Database providers include EBSCO, Gale, Grolier, ProQuest, and others.

Through these databases, texts are made available to educators, students and parents in each state. For a list of available databases containing Lexile measured texts by state, please see our Guide to Online Periodical Databases Offering Lexile Measures. Talk to your district media services coordinator about accessing these online databases and the Lexile measured texts they contain or visit your state’s database website for more information.

Want to keep up to date on the free Lexile resources available to you? Visit Lexile.com and sign up to receive our email updates.

National Library Card Sign-up Month

September is Library Card Sign-up Month. The event serves as a reminder that our public libraries continue to celebrate and encourage the act of reading, particularly among young people.

Libraries regularly offer readings for toddlers and preschoolers. Reading aloud to children is an activity that groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have long recommended. Now, a recent study has offered biological evidence of the positive effects of early exposure to reading, including increased ability to form mental images.

Reading to the very young also correlates with increased reading later in life. However, reading for pleasure usually declines as children enter their teens, due to increased demands on their time. For those without the time to wander the stacks, peering at miniscule numbers taped to the spines of books (a ritual many of us still enjoy), library websites now allow digital texts to be downloaded directly to e-readers.

Modern libraries are more than inexpensive book delivery systems.  Patrons are often unaware of all that libraries have to offer, including Internet services and educational events. September is the time to find out.  And, should students need book recommendations before they sign up, the free, Lexile-based “Find a Book” search tool helps readers discover titles that match both their interests and reading abilities.

Sign up for a card at your local library. Tell them Snoopy sent you.

A Just Right Reading List

We’re always happy when we hear about our tools and metrics being put to use by those outside of education. We designed tools, like Find a Book, with more than educators in mind. Our hope is that parents are able to use Find a Book year round to help students select books they actually want to read. That’s why we’re thrilled to see posts like this from Ellen Weeren over at A Reason to Write:

If you have ever been to the library or book store with a child, you know full well how hard it can be to find a “just right” book for that child to read.

Well, Lexile will make choosing a book a (much) easier undertaking.

On the Lexile website, at the top of the homepage (right next to the “home” tab on the upper left corner of the site) is the “find a book” tab. Click it and you will be prompted for your child’s Lexile measurement. (You can also get an estimate of that by pulling up a book that s/he has recently read and seeing what it’s ranking is. Then use that ranking for your child as an estimate.) Then they will also ask what grade the child is in.

Then you to select what types of books the child enjoys reading – mystery, fantasy, humor, etc.

Finally, you will get a long ‘o list of suggestions. Click on one that interests you/your child and you will get a summary of the book and a list of awards it might have won…

This is also a wonderful place for grandparents to figure out what books to buy their grandchildren.

And don’t forget Find a Book’s link to the public libraries as well. By clicking on the WorldCat link, users can determine if a public library carries the title they want – making books accessible to all readers. If you haven’t yet used it, be sure to give Find a Book a try.

Kentucky Emphasizes Reading

Susan Riddell of Kentucky Teacher, a publication of the Kentucky Department of Education, recently commented on the importance of summer reading:

“Students who participate in summer reading programs are less likely to lose knowledge and skills during the summer,” says Suzanne Crowder, library media specialist at Campbellsville Elementary School.  “Summer reading has the potential to help children make gains in their reading and vocabulary.  It also offers students who live in poverty the opportunity to have reading materials readily available.”

According to Riddell, the Find a Book, Kentuckyinitiative is one resource library specialist and teachers alike are taking advantage of this summer.  After receiving training earlier this year, librarians are recommending this service to patrons- with librarian Kate Schiavi of the Louisville Free Public Library noting that, “I have been having more and more patrons come in looking for books on a particular Lexile level…I have found the Lexile website easy to use and search.  It’s a great tool for them to be able to jump on at their computer at home and come to the library prepared.”

Ample research demonstrates the importance of encouraging reading during summer months to avoid the loss that students suffer when they take a three month hiatus from learning. We are glad to see others taking up this cause, and utilizing the convenience of our utilities which are powered by the research and technology of the Lexile Framework for Reading.  And remember: “Find a Book” is not just for creating summer reading lists.  “Find a Book” can be used year round and is an excellent free tool for allowing students to match themselves to targeted text based on both interest and their reading range.

Preventing ‘Summer Slippage’

Back in March we offered a nod to Hasbrouck Heights High School for collaborating with the local public library to sponsor The Big Read – an initiative designed to get students reading more outside the classroom.  And that includes the summer.  As this story makes clear, Hasbrouck Heights is drawing attention to the importance of reading over the summer months:

Dr. Mark Porto, superintendent of schools, explained that kids’ reading skills have been known to weaken, something some educators have called “summer slippage,” due to not reading regularly which can easily happen over the summer months. When students return to school in September it can take time for them to get back on track. 

Summer reading can prevent this, he told the audience, and the schools, along with the district’s three school media specialists, have been working with the borough library, coming together as a community to encourage reading in youngsters and even adults.

Porto invited the media specialists who head the libraries at the three district schools to the forum to speak on behalf of the program and reading in the district. Joan Weir, media specialist at Euclid School reflected on the success of the SRI program which gives each student a Lexile score, which is not a grade, but a determined comfortable reading level for which the student can select reading choices.

“I have never seen so many children with a book in their hands,” she commented adding that the children have really been encouraged by the program.

That’s good to hear. Hasbrouck Heights should be commended – again – for their efforts to keep students reading all year long.

The Right Book for Every Reader

The Illinois State Board of Education has incorporated Lexile Find a Book into its 2011 Summer Reading Program.  And here’s the local media picking up on the message on the importance of keeping students reading over the summer months:

Governor Pat Quinn, Secretary of State Jesse White and State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch are urging educators and families to help students retain and develop academic skills by reading during summer vacation.

The free online “Find a Book” utility at www.lexile.com/findabook provides a way for parents and children to quickly and easily search books that match a child’s reading level and interests as well as to locate the local library carrying each title.

It’s good to see that even the local media is joining in the call for keeping students academically engaged over summer vacation.  It’s our hope that parents and students will take notice and then take advantage of free tools like Find a Book and resources like their local public library.

Coming Soon: E-books Available Through Your Local Library

If you own a Kindle you may soon be able to check out e-books through your local library:

Amazon is preparing a new service called Kindle Lending Library that will allow users of its popular e-reader to check out Amazonian ebooks from 11,000 neighborhood and educational libraries.

“We’re excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries,” said Amazon Kindle headman Jay Marine when announcing the service, which is scheduled to launch later this year, and which will be available to all generations of Kindles, plus other platforms running Amazon’s Kindle software.

That’s good news for Kindle owners.  Kindles, in addition to other e-readers, have become more popular with young readers.  By partnering with public libraries, Amazon is providing young readers with easy access to thousands of titles.  Students will be able to read more without having to pay for titles of their choice.

Just imagine: students may soon be able to create individualized reading lists through our own Find a Book tool and then check out the e-book versions, downloading them directly onto their Kindle.

Kudos to Amazon for partnering with public libraries to get more books into the hands of readers everywhere.

Dispelling a Few More Misconceptions

In an interview in the most recent edition of Knowledge Quest, our own Malbert Smith tackles the concern that the adoption of the Lexile Framework will require libraries to reorganize their entire library by Lexile levels:

CAH: Some school librarians have been asked to abandon the standard organization of their school libraries in favor or arrangement by Lexile levels.  What are your thoughts about schools that use Lexile levels to rearrange and organize the school library collection?

MS: We do not find it necessary to reorganize a library by Lexile range or level.  Today,  a number of computer catalog providers offer Lexile measures to help guide students to the right reading materials – without actually having to rearrange those materials by Lexile level….What’s important is that the librarian is part of this process.  Items are cataloged in the automated system, and the librarian becomes a source for ordering and organizing the leveled materials.  It may be added work, but librarians can demonstrate that they are providing leveled resources and, at the same time, protect the main library collection from being rearranged.

And in the same interview. Dr. Smith tackles one of the most common misconceptions on the Lexile Framework:

CAH:What do you think about students having free choice in selecting their reading materials?  Should they always remain in their Lexile range?

MS: A student should be able to choose what he or she wants to read, regardless of whether that book or article is in his or her recommended Lexile range.  The Lexile range (100L below and 50L above a student’s Lexile measure) should be considered as a guide to help students select books that offer an appropriate level of challenge for their reading abilities.  In no way should a Lexile measure or a Lexile range be used to dictate what a student can and cannot read.  Students certainly can read books that are above or below their Lexile range.  However, books that are below a student’s Lexile range may offer little challenge in terms of new vocabulary and advanced grammar.  Likewise, books that are above the student’s Lexile range may be to challenging and discourage the student from reading. (emphasis added)

The idea that Lexile measures narrowly constrain readers to a limited range of books is a concern that we hear quite a bit.  But as Smith indicated above, the Lexile measure is intended as a guide, as a starting point for determining if a text is at the appropriate difficulty level for a student.  After all, students selecting books at too low a level are unlikely to be challenged or grow as readers.  On the other hand, students selecting books far too complex for their ability are likely to experience frustration and may even come to associate reading with frustration.  

For a closer look at how Lexile measures do NOT limit a reader’s choice, be sure to check out our latest video.

School Library Journal Offers Insight into the Future of Reading

The School Library Journal recently hosted their sixth annual Leadership Summit – 2010 The Future of Reading.  This year’s theme – exploring the ‘changing face of reading’ –  focused on a variety of topics, including how e-readers and digital texts are altering the way consumers access and digest information, the wide availability of content, and the role librarians play in the face of these rapid advances. 

One of our own partners, and a sponsor of the conference, Capstone Digital was present and discussed their own contribution to personalized learning platforms and its utilization of The Lexile Framework for Reading:

Meanwhile, Todd Brekhus, president of Capstone Digital, talked about establishing an online, personalized reading environment. He was joined by Barbara Rooks, formerly of Florida’s Hillsborough Public Schools, and Marlene Simmons of the Chicago Public Schools. The panelists presented a new digital reading model that engages students in their interests, establishes their reading level using the Lexile framework, allows for free choice in reading selection, and gives anytime, anywhere access to books. Discussion ranged from how a digital reading program could build student confidence to how librarians and educators could administer personalized reading plans.

The School Library Journal offers a more indepth summary here.  From the summary, it appears the conference touched on a wide range of relevant and pressing topics – everything from the use of multimedia and the use of animated and graphic texts in the classroom to reach reluctant readers, to leveraging social networks and mobility to expand readership, and even the need for a more robust definition and assessment of Internet literacy.  Be sure to take a look. 

It’s also worth mentioning that the School Library Journal is a great source for information on the world of publishing, new books, digital media, and the role of media in education.  In fact, we’ve added them to our list of sources on the right hand side of this blog.  If you’re not already reading, be sure to add SLJ to your list of bookmarks.

The Latest in Digital Content News

Libraries around the country continue to struggle to meet the needs of patrons through the expanded use of technology.  That struggle just got a bit harder.  In recent news, many publishing houses are now placing restrictions on the lending of e-books to library patrons. In the past, we’ve commented on public libraries that are now offering e-book downloads to patrons using their library account.  Unfortunately, at a recent library conference, it was announced that major trade publishers have agreed to offer their e-book content for lending – but with restrictions. These restrictions limit the means by which patrons may access online content, in many cases requiring a patron to be on-site in order to download e-book material.  Additionally, availability is severely limited and some publishers are now requiring that only one copy may be checked out at a time. We’ve seen this before.  This type of enforcement is similar to the type of restrictions in place for music and movie sharing.

Not all publishers, however, are on board. Several will continue to provide access to their e-books without these types of controls. According to Springer-Verlag (an international publisher in science and technology):

“Libraries buy direct from us and they own the content,” says the publisher’s director of channel marketing George Scotti. “Once users download content, they can give it out, share, whatever. They own it. Some of our competitors are afraid to do this, but we say, free the content.”

That’s good to hear.  As the article states, library systems make up only about 4% of book sales.  It’s, therefore, unlikely that the lending of e-content would have a significant impact on the publishing industry.

In  related digital news, it was recently announced that U.S. News and World Report will discontinue its monthly print publication to move entirely to a digital model. The last print issue will publish in December. This is a major milestone.  U.S. News & World Report dates back to 1948.  The shift to all digital content signals major changes in the publishing industry – primarily in the dominant way in which we access and engage content.  It’s likely that other publications may soon follow suit- abandoning print altogether, and opting for a more flexible  and efficient digital model.

Beginning in 2011, readers can find the magazine electronically, on their iPad or Android-based devices – perhaps even lent to you in e-form through your local library.

MetaMetrics is an educational measurement organization. Our renowned psychometric team develops scientific measures of student achievement that link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.