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During the school year, one of the tools I will be using to help me assess students' reading abilities is the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI).  The SRI is a fantastic piece of software that allows students to sit at the computer, read selected passages, and answer questions about what they read. 

When students have completed the assessment, they are assigned a Lexile measure (a number between 0 and 2000).  The Lexile range for fifth grade students is between 700 and 1000.  Since there exists such a wide range of reading levels, Lexiles can more specifically determine the reading ability of students, rather than simply indicating that a child is reading above, at, or below grade level.  Once a child's Lexile measure has been determined, one can then find books that match the student's reading level by using an online database that has "Lexiled" more than 100,000 English titles.  This way, students can find books that aren't too easy, aren't too difficult, but are, as Goldilocks would say, just right.  Got a book in mind?  Use Lexile.com's online database to find out the book's Lexile level.

A general guideline to use when looking for an appropriate book is that students should try to read books that are from 50 Lexiles above to 100 Lexiles below their own Lexile measure.  While this guideline is helpful, it is important to remember that it is just that -- a guideline.  I do occasionally recommend books for my students that don't exactly "match" in terms of the students' and books' Lexile levels.  I have encountered books whose assigned Lexiles, when compared to my experience with the books, don't seem quite accurate.  For example, Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater has a Lexile of 910, putting it at a high 5th grade level.  I have found, however, this book to be perfect for some of my struggling 5th grade readers.  In fact, when I taught 4th grade, I used this book as a core novel for my entire class.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, if your experience leads you to believe a book may be a good match for your student, despite the lack of an apparent match between the Lexile level of the book and student, don't be afraid to give it a try.  The student will know within a chapter or two if the book is too hard or too easy.

If you have any questions about Lexiles, you can visit the Lexile Framework for Reading website at www.lexile.com, contact me by phone at 696-1411 x2534, or e-mail me. 

Brent Coley

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