While I am not a fan of leveled texts, I accept why many believe they are important. I admit that I became a fiction reader using leveled texts, but that path of development was accidental. My growth was the result of reading through the Bobbsey Twins series, through the Hardy Boys series, and finally through my beloved Nancy Drew series. I made my way up the reading ladder of difficulty independently, in fiction, without much assistance.
There was, however, training in non-fiction through the SRA (Scientific Research Associates) platform in my elementary school. How I hated being placed in those levels of purple, brown, and green reading when there were obviously better reading levels of aquamarine, silver, and gold. Just who thought these levels were too difficult for me? I was determined to move to those upper levels, and I confess that I cheated to get to the those level quite regularly. Taking the answer key for the story I read as well as the next non-fiction story, I would fill in the test responses without having read the corresponding story. I didn’t stop until I had reached the upper levels of metallic glory.
No one noticed the difference in my scores at those levels. I considered all non-fiction boring, especially the fake reading that was on the SRA cards, so who was I hurting?
Turns out I was right. Holding me back to those lower reading levels was what drove me away from non-fiction and straight into the arms of Louisa May Alcott and her Little Women.
There is a great deal of time (money) and effort in education given over to leveled text programs. These programs are not unlike the one pioneered by the SRA Reading Laboratory. There are advocates who can attest that for many students, this leveled system works. Students who start reading at one level improve in order to move up to the next level.
Except personal experience makes me think differently.