Find National Geographic Kids Magazine for 2009 to present here. Also contains books, maps, images and videos on science, nature, culture, archaeology and space. Good for elementary and middle school students.
Contains a selection of books, images, maps, and videos on topics such as science and technology, history, environment, animals, photography, and people and cultures. Includes National Geographic Traveler Magazine from 2010 to the present.
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While I originally prepared this as a presentation in 2015, my opinions remain the same! Remember, they are opinions based on experience working with all kinds of readers. Take what is valuable where you are and leave the rest behind!
I worked here at IndyPL from 1990 to 2000, the last eight years as the Manager of Literacy Services (director of Indy Reads). Besides working with many adults learning how to read, I have experience in writing for people who don’t have strong reading skills.
I worked for 12 years in seven center city Catholic schools either as a librarian or a grant administrator. I met all kinds of families who wanted to help their kids do better in school. During that time, we implemented Accelerated Reader in those seven schools. I have attended, and provided many hours of training on AR and student reading practice.
For the last six years, I’ve been back at IndyPL as the manager of the Shared System. I get to see all kinds of libraries, administrators, teachers, and reading programs.
I’ve listened to lots of arguments about reading levels and I am, honestly, tired of them. We can’t change the educational system, or the teacher’s motivation or lack thereof, or the parent’s need to control, or the child’s interest or lack thereof. We can only change our own knowledge and prepare ourselves to respond appropriately.
People have been trying to nail down a way to measure how readable text is since the 1920s. They used sentence length, word length, high frequency word lists, low frequency word lists. In the beginning, they wanted to make sure what they wrote could be read by people with limited reading skills. Advertisers, the military, the health care industry, fast food businesses and many others are interested in making sure their employees and customers can read and understand what they publish.
Today, in the field of education, readability or reading levels are measured by complex algorithms, huge lists of graded vocabulary, and are a high profit sales point for publishers, test makers and consultants. Renaissance Learning (the folks who bring you Accelerated Reader) publishes a 34 page guide to understanding how they assign the ATOS ((ATOS stands for Advantage/TASA Open Standard) level. Metametrics, Inc. publishes a two paragraph guide to how they assign a Lexile level.
P.S. Never, ever, ever rely on a publisher to supply you with a valid reading level.
Why is there so much talk about reading levels?
School administrators care – esp if pushing to raise school letter grade, test scores, prestige
Teachers care – most really do want their kids to succeed, but they also have to think about the administration and performance reviews
Parents care – seems like something they can control about their child’s education
Some students care – Scholastic study on reading frequency showed that kids who had been told their reading level tended to read more
…and if they read more, they do better in school, get better grades and higher test scores
Reading levels have the greatest benefit to the teacher and student.
The teacher has to know how to use them to guide students’ reading practice.
Student can use them to pick out books at a comfortable reading level.
Each student has a Zone of Proximal Development, like a band width of reading levels that won’t be too hard or
too easy, but just right. Lev Vygotsky, the psychologist who developed the term ZPD, said that you need to practice what you are learning in this zone, and the more practice you do, the better you get, until your Zone moves up a little higher. Teachers who use Accelerated Reader are watching that their students are reading in their zone. They are also looking at the quantity of their students’ reading and the quality of their reading.
Quantity is measured by points – how long a book is and how hard it is, while quality is measured by how well students do on the quiz about the book (I’ll say more about that in a minute).
Note that the importance of reading levels diminishes for the kids reading at higher reading levels. The quality and quantity of their practice continues to be important, and a really good teacher will make sure they are reading as many as they can of the books their peers will have read by graduation from high school or the start of college.
In short, you can’t be well read if you can’t read well. And you can’t read well if you don’t get enough practice.
Some schools, both elementary and high school, offer independent reading time during the school day. Sometimes called DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time, the 20 to 30 minutes can quickly become free time. (for ex., teacher grading papers, kid playing games on iPad, or finishing homework for next class)
Because every minute should count to a teacher, and does count in the long run, some schools use quizzing programs to make sure kids are reading.
In the best of all possible worlds, kids use DEAR time to read, they take quizzes on what they read, the teacher sees how they’re doing and follows up if he sees they aren’t reading much, if they’re getting bogged down, or if they’re taking a lazy way out.
The lazy way out? Shouldn’t everyone be able to read whatever they want to whenever they want to?
Remember my subtitle: One Woman’s Opinion. My opinion on this one is no, they shouldn’t. They’re at school, DEAR time was established by the school with a clear learning objective of developing reading skills. Teachers should be monitoring the activity in the classroom, and students should be reading books of their choosing within their ZPD, and some accountability should be built in. That might be through Accelerated Reader or Reading Counts, or it might be by asking students to write a summary of or reflection on what they read that day.
What’s wrong with homework? That’s reading, right? Remember my subtitle. My opinion is no, it’s not. It’s not what you would choose to read, it’s what your teacher assigned you to read (or write, or calculate). There are other times for homework.
You can get into all kinds of trouble with reading levels! Most of them have to do with “infidelity of implementation.” Teacher didn’t get trained, teacher doesn’t value or understand importance of reading practice, teacher has other “better” ideas about how to handle reading.
So you get teachers who say “you can’t read that, it’s too easy.” Or “you can’t read that, it’s too hard.” Or “everyone has to get 25 points this quarter or you flunk a reading test grade.”
Or “you’re reading at 10th grade reading level so I don’t want you to read anything below that.”
Let’s take those one at a time:
“It’s too easy” – Some kids need to practice more on books that are easy before they feel confident. The mantra is “longer before harder, shorter before easier.” So a kid stuck on Berenstain Bears might need a suggestion for a short chapter book like Magic Tree House – roughly the same reading level.
“It’s too hard!” – self esteem! Yeesh. Talk about “more comfortable level.” Try the five finger rule. look at what the student has read successfully in the past.
“Everyone has the same points goal” – in one class you have 26 kids. Some are really strong readers. Others are average. Some not average. Each of those has a different reading barometer. Some below average kids will tear through those points goals in no time because they’re hooked on a series. Some of those above average kids would rather read Instagram than a whole book. Setting the same points goal for the whole class is (remember the subtitle) just plain lazy.
“You’re reading at a tenth grade level; nothing below that.” – Look at YALSA’s college bound list. There’s an intro to philosophy graphic novel on that list written at just below a fifth grade level. Looking at just the number, the readability level, ignores the content. And it leaves out a huge body of work, such as the 10 or 12 titles on the YALSA college bound list, let alone some other classics such as Flowers for Algernon (5.8, 910 L) or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (4.0, 600 L) or The Hate U Give (3.9, 590 L)
We have all seen them. they heard their child’s reading level and they are either devastated or euphoric. They grab ahold of that number and want a book to fix their kid, or to guarantee their admission to Harvard.
What do you do?
Be prepared. Understand reading levels, and accountability, and reading quizzes, and the parent’s need to control something – anything – to help their child succeed.
Be supportive. “I’ve talked with lots of parents in your shoes.” “I think it’s great you care enough about your child’s success to come and find just the right book for them.”
Be thoughtful. “I wonder if the teacher understood that setting your child’s minimum reading level so high meant he was cutting out most of the books on the college reading lists. I’m sure he wouldn’t have done that on purpose. Would you like a copy of the list to show him?”
“I wonder why the teacher did that. I bet they could read lots of shorter books that would be more comfortable and get the practice the teacher wants them to get.”
Be bountiful. Since the kid isn’t there, send home a variety. Include a reading list or a website for the parent. Maybe find a book for them at your library – use the subject heading “Reading–Parent participation.”
Be welcoming. Invite them to come back if you haven’t found the right book for their kid. Encourage them to call if they have any questions.
Remember One Book, One City? When the whole city read the same book? Colleges, high schools and grade schools do that, too. And I can’t think of a good reason not to encourage our friends in the art museums to follow suit! I went to a session called One Book, One School at an Indiana Library Federation conference and have tips that all Shared System members can adapt to your own settings!
Pre-reading. Choose the book. Ask for nominations or create your own list of nominations. You could use a Google Doc to list the books, costs and themes and share it with your committees or your teachers. Watch what people are reading; listen to them talk about books they’re excited about. Look at the Young Hoosier Book Award nominees. Can you connect the books to curriculum standards, school themes, mottos or other activities? (For example, IMA friends – your upcoming exhibit on grafitti from the 70s and 80s might lend itself a discussion of one of John Updike’s collections of his essays on art (JustLooking, Still Looking, or Always Looking). If you’re worried about the range of book levels, see if you can find a theme and select books at several levels. Think about how you’re going to pay for the books, and how many copies you’ll need. Make sure it’s still in print! (See if you can find an independently owned bookstore to get it for you – they have relationships with distributors that they can tap into.)
Getting Ready. Give the books to teachers two months ahead. Plan decorations, flyers, parent letters and how you’re going to get the book to your readers. One of the schools had a parent who went all out on the decorations – and students had to see if they could guess the book from her decorations in the school lobby. Hand out the book at a back to school night or other event and ask students to write their names in it right away. Make sure parents know about the book and encourage them to read it, too. At one school, the letter pointed out that the books were NOT required reading, but that the activities and discussion surrounding it would be so cool that kids would want to have read it so they could participate. They also pointed out how this activity helped kids build up their reading stamina. One of the speakers pointed out that there was no accountability for having read the book – on purpose. They wanted students to read voluntarily, to get the idea that, even though you are busy, reading is a fun activity you can choose to do. Schedule how much reading students need to do each week so you can tie trivia questions in with what will have been read each week.
During Reading. There’s so much you can do here! One school kicked it off by having a 30 minute read aloud broadcast on their classroom TVs the first day. They did weekly trivia questions from the book – maybe during silent reading time and held drawings for people with the correct answers. You could also bring in fine arts or core content connections, and even add a service learning component directly tied to the book. (These ideas would really be helped by having a committee to implement them!)
Post Reading. Do follow up surveys with students, parents and teachers. Ask for ideas for the next book! If your students don’t want to keep their books, think about collecting them and sharing them with another school so they can do their own One Book, One School.
This Dark Endeavor
All of the Above (brings in math AND art AND cooking!)
Let us hear from you if you decide to implement One Book, One School.
You might want to let teachers know about this way to stay current in their respective fields. And it works for our field as well. Visit our Online Databases. Look at the alphabetical list for Professional Collection (published by Ebsco). Deana Beecher at Decatur Central says this database got her through grad school! At the top of the page, choose Publications and then either search for a publication or browse the whole collection:
When you click on the title, you’ll see a listing of all the issues available. You can click on the most recent issue and see whether it has any articles you’d like to read, then read the pdf or HTML version. Same text as the original articles!
By now, you’ve heard all about the Common Core standards and how students need to read more non-fiction. You may have even heard that librarians can now be central to the process of implementing the Common Core standards because we know so much about books and our students and how they read! In a webinar on 10/20/12, Olga Nesi from the New York Dept of Education spoke about the role of librarians and Common Core. What she said about evaluating text for text complexity resonated with me, and will, I hope, with you as well.
The first step in evaluating text complexity is quantitative, looking at either its lexile or reading level. (Did you know this is easy to do on the IndyPL website? Go to http://www.imcpl.org/collection/kids/ and scroll about halfway down to find the two sites for looking up reading level.) This is also the smallest step – you can’t stop here!
The second step in evaluating text complexity is qualitative, looking at paragraph structure, syntax, layout and how much prior knowledge about the topic is needed to understand the text.
The final step in evaluating text complexity is matching reader to task, looking at what student is reading what and for what purpose. The reading task might make the text harder to read – or easier! You can help the student and the teacher discern whether the reader, the task and the text are a good match!
Here’s another useful idea from the webinar – using a bull’s eye to help students distinguish between important and less important details.
#1 Be Proactive– Know your book level and be able to request your own books using the iPads.
#2 Begin with the End in Mind-Be thinking of your AR goal when choosing books.
#3 Put First Things First-First choose several AR books in your range, then look for an “at home” book. This could be a book that is not in your range that you want your parents to read to you, or a book, that is not AR, about a subject that interests you.
#4 Think Win-Win- Try to find a book that you will enjoy that will also help you reach your goals.
#5 Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood-Listen to your librarians.
#6 Synergize– Work with your librarians to choose a good book.
#7 Sharpen the Saw– Read a great book, talk about a great book with friends, get lost in a great book or series.
Q: Here is an interesting observation regarding the change with requesting materials. I tried requesting a video/dvd for a teacher in Horizon and was told “There are no requestable items”, but then I tried in Sherloc and was successful. So the average patron can request items, but the Library staff are prevented?
A – from Amy Spurrier:
If my explanation of this behavior makes your eyes cross, give me a call or come by… Not all things are best described in email.
When you’re placing a request on the web, your only option is to place a request at the bib level, as opposed to the item level. [The bib level is the part of the catalog record that describes the book/DVD/CD – author, title, publisher, size, ISBN and OCLC #s, that sort of thing.] During the process of placing the request Horizon goes through multiple checks. One of those checks is to see if there are any copies on the bib record that are ‘requestable’ As long as there is one requestable item, the request will be placed successfully.
In the Horizon client, it is slightly different. When you’re placing a request in the Horizon client, you can place a request at the bib level (which is where most people place requests) or at the item level [you might also think of this as Copies or Holdings level]. If you place the request while viewing the full bib record (left) Horizon works the same way as the web – as long as there is one copy on the bib record that is requestable, the request will be placed successfully.
The confusion can arise when you’re trying to place a request from the Copies screen [also known as the Item Level]. (right). Since you’re viewing the copies screen, Horizon assumes that you’re going to place an item level request on the first item listed. Since the first copy listed is owned by BJE, the request can’t be placed. Requests on the DVDS itype are not allowed by BJE.
As a rule of thumb I would recommend that, when using Horizon, requests are placed from the full bib screen, rather than the copies screen. Unless, of course, they need to place an item level request.