Okay, so I have to begin by saying that I AM NOT A TEACHER. There are brilliant people out there in the trenches (to whom we owe a great debt) who are, and they know a lot about this stuff. I fear what I am about to say will seem stupid to them.
So I want to phrase it as a question… (that’s a trick I know)
The question: to what degree does the term “reading level” refer to form/format ( stuff like length/ vocabular/ chapter length/sentence length) and to what degree does it refer to complexity of ideas and structure?
This has been nagging at me. Because I see people talk a lot about how, say, verse-novels appeal to kids who struggle with reading. Because such books offer lots of white space and are short. But this seems odd to me, because shortness doesn’t always indicate easy, does it? Or I pick up graphic novels that I’m told also appeal to such kids, because kids like pictures, and I find them (on occasion) disjointed and hard to follow.
So I wonder– are these really the best books for kids who have trouble reading, and (maybe as a result) don’t love to read? It seems like the best book for such a reader might be one with simple words, straightforward structure, and short chapters, but really interesting ideas. Just because someone is a slow reader doesn’t mean they’re a slow thinker, right?
I find myself reciting poetry to myself, mulling over what the AR level for a “simple” poet like WCWilliams might be. Or Creeley? I mean– they have simple words in them, and they’re SHORT and stuff.
Like, have you read I KNOW A MAN?
so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens.
I want to ask you all– what are some things that really work well for a kid who’s struggling to read? I don’t want to know the best books. I want to know what you think makes them the best books. What are the elements of a great book for a reluctant reader. (understanding, of course, that these readers are all distinct individuals with specific tastes. But generally, what do you see as successful?)