While cruising through the Barnes and Noble site recently, I noticed something I’d never seen before on the page for my book, Gravity. There was something called a Lexile number, and mine was 730L. What the heck was that, I wondered. So I clicked on the link and found this explanation:
A child’s grade level and reading ability are two different things. That’s why a LexileÂ® measures the child’s ability based on reading comprehension, not grade level. A Lexile (for example, 850L) is the most widely adopted measure of reading ability and text difficulty. Lexile measures are valuable tools that help teachers, librarians, parents and children select books that will provide the right level of challenge for the child’s reading abilityâ€”not too difficult to be frustrating, but difficult enough to encourage reading growth. A child typically receives a Lexile measure by taking a test of reading comprehension, such as the Scholastic Reading Inventory, the Iowa Tests, and many end-of-grade state assessments. The Lexile measure of a book is based on word frequency and sentence length, and is displayed on Barnes & Noble.com product pages. The higher the Lexile measure, the more difficult the text is likely to comprehend.
To learn if Lexile measures are available in your area, contact your school district or state department of education. For more information on Lexile measures, visit www.Lexile.com.
Please note: A Lexile measures text difficulty only. It does not address the subject matter or quality of the text, age-appropriateness of the content, or the reader’s interests. Parents are encouraged to preview all reading materials.
So what did it mean, that Gravity had a Lexile number of 730? I hopped on over to the Lexile site, to compare where my book stood against others, and was surprised to find out that, according to Lexile, Gravity has a reading difficulty akin to an average book in the Nancy Drew series, making it appropriate for readers from age 8 to 12. Which astonished me, considering the fact that Gravity is so full of NASA and engineering terminology that it requires a glossary to explain the vocabulary. I then did a search of my other titles and found that my medical thriller Harvest was rated even less difficult to read, at 620. And that is chock full of complicated medical terms.
Then I noticed that Lexile numbers for mystery authors are all over the place. Robert Parker’s in the 500′s. Patricia Cornwell and Michael Crichton have similar Lexile numbers to mine, in the 700′s. Dean Koonts’s books have Lexile numbers over a thousand. Nathaniel Hawthorne beats us all with a Lexile of 1340. Astonishingly enough, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, a book written in the voice of a child, told in charmingly simplistic terms, rates a Lexile of 1180.
What does it all mean, anyway? Does a low score mean we’re simplistic writers? Or does it mean we write with more clarity, making our books easy to comprehend? Does it mean that a school kid who reads our books will get less credit because our books aren’t considered difficult enough?
Or does it mean our books are more likely to be assigned in schools because librarians feel our writing is appropriate to students?
ICheck the site and see if your own books are listed on the site. You can do a search by writing in the author’s name.
I found more information on Lexile here. It offers a grade-equivalent of the Lexile text difficulty scores. And yep, according to the chart, my books are for appropriate for kids from Grades 3 – 5! I had no idea that Harvest was a young adult book!
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