To Level or Not to Level?
The great debate among many teachers in lies whether or not books should be leveled or not. This doesn’t seem to be a clear cut question to answer. Based on reading from Duke, Pearson, Strachan, & Billman, readers should be exposed to text that is of interest to them. I think this implies that reading off level is most appropriate. An important caveat to consider is that teacher or parent involvement needs to occur when students desire to read a book that is a bit too hard for them to read independently. On the flip side, if the interest is there, the student should be exposed. The benefits of interest based reading are monumental. Students have context to place new vocabulary as well as motivation to continue to read. In support of Gee’s opinion from Situated Language and Learning: A Critique of Traditional Schooling, students who are motivated by content and exposed to a variety of vocabulary amount to good readers. I think limiting readers to text that is only at their instructional level is a disservice to them based on prior research.
A guided reading approach as supported by Fountas & Pinnell, is one that incorporates both leveled texts as well as interest based text experiences. This approach seems to be the most encompassing when it comes reading instruction. During guided reading (small group instruction) leveled text are used with teacher guidance, but during independent reading opportunities (which is also a component of the guided reading approach) self-selected (not leveled books) are read by students. I support this combined approach which in term helps foster motivation and vocabulary development (through classroom discussion) which we have learned are the greatest predictors of “good readers”.