Larry just finished reading a book from the Bluford Series, which is a Level T. Based on your check-ins with him, you know he completely understood it. When you invite Larry over to the library to shop with you, you say to yourself, “Self, this my chance to get Larry reading some harder books. He’s a Level X! He needs to read books on his level!” You have your “Alternate Choice” strategy all set up, and you’re ready to coax him into reading harder books. But, here is how the library conference goes:
Teacher: Hey Larry! I just saw you got a 100% on A Matter of Trust. Nice work! You’re a Level X now, right?
Lazy Larry: Umm, I guess.
Teacher: Nice! Do you want to read some fantasy or realistic fiction next?
Lazy Larry: I don’t like fantasy.
Teacher: Cool, let’s get some realistic books for you to preview. Hmm, I got three choices that I think you’ll really like here: Wonder; Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie; and Copper Sun. These are 3 of my favorite W/X books. Can I tell you a bit about them.
Lazy Larry: Ugh, these aren’t for me. They look … weird.
Teacher: Well, this one is about …
Lazy Larry: No way! You have Big Nate 3?!? I haven’t read that one yet!
Teacher: But Larry, you’re a Level X. You need to read harder books!
Lazy Larry: No I don’t. Please can I take Big Nate 3! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeese!
First, one caveat I should mention is that while Matt and I love the F&P assessment, it does have some limitations. The assessment texts are just three to four pages long and it doesn’t test a student’s ability to read a full text, independently. Instead, the text is taken in a controlled environment where the teacher is providing some proximity and is perhaps also offering some praise to the student as they work through the test. As such, it’s overly simplistic to believe that passing a very short assessment means that you have all of the necessary skills to read every book on that level independently.
With that caveat in mind, this situation is a bit complicated. As the teacher, we need to dig a little bit deeper to determine the root cause behind why your “Level X” reader is insisting upon reading a Level R book. From our experience, there are a couple likely scenarios:
Scenario 1: Larry has actually been able to successfully read several Level V-W books so far this school year.
If Larry has been able to successfully read Level V and W books this year, it means he’s really close to being able to read Level X books and likely does have the skills that are needed. He may just lack the tiny bit of confidence needed to get started on this harder text. This is where an offer of support may be helpful. Perhaps, acknowledge how you know this is a challenge, but reassure him that he is up for it, and that you will be available to check-in after the first chapter or so, in order to make sure it’s not too hard.
Scenario 2: Larry is technically a Level X, but he hasn’t actually successfully read books that are close to a Level X.
If this is the case, Larry probably just doesn’t yet have the stamina and synthesis skills needed to read full-length X texts. Under these circumstances, I believe it’s perfectly okay to let Larry continue to read books that are a bit below his official F&P Level. Once he is confident and adept at reading those books, he’ll be able to gradually start reading harder books.
Scenario 3: Is Larry not reading at home? Is he reading only a small number of pages each day?
When kids aren’t reading a lot at school and at home (at least 30 minutes per day combined), it’s nearly impossible to sustain interest in a challenging text. Instead it’s much easier to complete a shorter book if you’re not reading very much each day. If this is the case, you may need to try to figure out a way to get him more reading time in school or increase the accountability measures on his reading at home.
Scenario 4: Larry has trouble focusing or is really disorganized and thus struggles to read a more challenging text.
For some kids, Assistive Technology may be a great solution to help them stay focused when reading.
This situation with Larry is definitely a bit tricky, but once you figure out the root cause of his “laziness,” you can work towards having him read books on his level.