Friday, June 10, 2011

Six-minute Lexile Video Part 1

My next few blogs are going to be an in-depth look at the six minute video that Lexile™ uses to convince parents and educators that their system is the best one. Today I will focus on the first 90 seconds (approximately). Here is a link to the video so you can watch and see what you think.

The video starts with an example of a father taking his son to buy sneakers. They ask you to imagine the salesperson asking your child their age and then giving them a pair of sneakers based on that. Of course they wouldn’t do that, they tell you. They would measure your child’s foot and give them a sneaker based on that. Your child’s Lexile™ score, they say, can be compared to the measurement of your child’s foot. They claim this makes it a more accurate way to choose reading material. They are trying to appeal to a parent’s innate sense that their child shouldn’t just be lumped with everyone else, but treated like an individual. In other words, this scoring system will allow your child to select reading material tailor made just for THEM! Amazing!

But the fact is that this analogy is WAY to simplistic and actually, in the end is simply wrong. Here are four ways it falls way short.

1. To say that age has no impact on a sneaker purchase is false. There are different lines of sneakers based on the age of the wearers. When they design sneakers they think of the average ages that will be wearing that size and try to make styles to appeal to them. Any parent who has shopped with their 8-12 year old for sneakers knows that this “style” is pretty important to the purchasing decision. In an even bigger way, interest in and preference for the material is critical when making reading selections.

2. When a child outgrows a shoe size, they can’t go back to wearing that size. They must move up. There is no other choice. It is not the same at all with reading. Kids can read at widely varying levels on any one day. Perhaps they read a comic book or magazine in the morning, their science textbook at school and an instruction manual for their new electronic toy in the afternoon and a favorite fiction author in the evening. These materials will all be written at different levels, and the decision to read each one is made for entirely different reasons. Another way to look at it: I can’t ever go back and wear my baby shoes, but I still enjoy re-reading copies of books I enjoyed as a child. I may not reading scholarly works about engineering because it is not my field of interest, but I will slog through difficult reading that pertains to my work or passions.

3. The analogy assumes some things that have not yet been proven by any research. It assumes that when your child is tested and given their “lexile”™ score based on this test (only a limited number of readings), that this score is an accurate reflection of their reading ability. It also assumes that the software used to analyze and score texts is accurate. Read my first blog entry to find out more about how not true that is!

4. Okay, this is not a way it falls short. I just have to say this one…it is just plain asinine to compare the choosing of reading material to the purchasing of clothing.

Lexile™ will admit that their system does not account for age, interests or background knowledge of the reader, but they have an answer for that! Use our magical wizard they say. Simply input your child's age and interests and we can magically factor them in when making tailor-made book recommendations for your child. Umm...well... This doesn’t help when the lexile™ levels they assign to most juvenile and young adult novels are lower than the scores given to many of the students in this age group. In other words, before interest or age can be factored, most of the interesting and fun literature for the kids has already been ruled out by the score. They say a typical fourth grader should have a lexile™ of 950, but heck even a book as challenging as Lord of the Rings has a score of only 860. If they really want to use the shoe buying analogy, this would be like designing shoes to match a pre-teens styles and interests, but only making them in toddler or adult sizes. (or something like that!)

Next time I will look at the next minute or so of the video. Until then, happy reading!


  1. Yay! And if they can't get it from your well-stated common sense post here, or need data to be convinced, perhaps they should browse through the easy-to-read POWER OF READING by Stephen Krashen! As a children's author, past librarian and classroom teacher, I applaud what you are doing here. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for the support Deb. I requested the book you suggested from the library today. Love your books, by the way, my children's collection has several of them and they are favorites of our young patrons!

    Another good book that I started reading the other day is Readicide by Kelly Gallagher.