If you are a very good reader, you may think that you should be reading harder and harder books in order to become a better and better reader. But there is more to being a good reader than being able to comprehend books with a high AR level. If you are comfortable with books at an AR level of 6.0, it is time for you to become a more sophisticated reader:
1. Develop an appreciation for different types of fiction: fantasy, mystery, historical and realistic novels.
2. Develop an appreciation for different types of books: science, geography, history, folklore and biography.
3. Learn to think about how books relate to life: how do the characters face difficulties, how do they interact with each other, how do they show courage and hope? How are you like the characters?
4. Learn to notice the quality of the writing: figures of speech, sensory details, powerful words, strong verbs, realistic conversations and a sense of rhythm.
Find books that will challenge you:
When you are on this website, look at these pages in the theme section for ideas: ‘Gr. 6 Lit. Survey’, ‘Gr. 7 Lit. Survey’, ‘Gr. 8 Lit. Survey’, ‘Literature Survey’, ‘Classics’.
A note to parents and teachers: While the AR (Accelerated Reading) system of levelling books and providing comprehension tests is very useful for many purposes, it is not designed to push a student’s reading level endlessly higher. Several years ago when I first became acquainted with the AR system and wrote to the company with questions, it was recommended that I encourage students to focus on reading books of various genres, once they reached an average AR level of 6.0, and not confine them to reading books at the high AR levels. So, I now recommend that competent readers choose books at a variety of levels in order to broaden their knowledge of literature while still maintaining their reading skills.
Here’s a bit of interesting information: The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter and A Million Little Pieces by James Frey both have the same AR level: 4.2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling has a higher reading level than East of Eden by John Steinbeck: 7.2 compared to 5.3. We generally think that novels for adults are more difficult than ones written for children, so how do we make sense of readability scales? Especially when one scale rates a book quite differently than another scale: East of Eden is rated as easier than Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight on the Lexile scale but is considered more difficult on the AR scale.
While the number of words in a sentence and the number of syllables in words are both commonly used to help determine readability, there are many other factors that need to be considered when deciding how difficult a book is to read. How large is the font? How clear is the print? How long are the paragraphs? How many concepts are there on a page? What is the subject matter? What is the writing style? A readability scale is only one of many factors to consider when choosing books to read.