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Text Complexity Made Easy!

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 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 tasklooking 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.

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