Monday, October 17, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading. 10. The text should be sympathetic

In the last blog we discussed the idea that texts should be interesting and that the guided reading session should involve an element of choice. In this blog the emphasis will be on the actual difficulty level or readability level of the text.

The readability of the text refers to the ease of reading. There are many reasons why one text is easier to read than another. Easier texts usually have shorter sentences with smaller and more familiar words.  There are many other factors that can make reading easier for the reader such as the font size, good illustrations,  number of sentences per page, and the use of natural language with familiar expressions. One of the most important elements is familiarity with the reading topic. Generally, the more a child knows about a topic the more he/she will understand when new ideas are presented. This works well when the child is interested in a topic because he/she will be more likely to persist in the face of reading difficulty.

A simple way to assess the suitability of the text is to count the number of words that are correct out of the first 100 words read. Generally, 96% word accuracy or above is considered to be too easy for the reader. To give some challenge and to learn new words the reader should be reading a text that is pitched between 90% and 95% word accuracy. An easy way to score this is to have a 10 by 10 grid and tick each box for each word read correctly. Subtract the number of boxes that are unticked from 100. This will give you the word accuracy percentage. Below 90% word accuracy is considered to be at the frustration level unless you provide some scaffolding to assist the reading.

A simpler way to check is to have the child place a finger on each word that they do not know on the page. If five fingers are used the text is too difficult. For this to work there must be at least 50 words on the page.

Some books can be assessed using the Book Wizard (see below - click on the image) on the Ashton Scholastic website at
Type the name of the book into the wizard and you will find the interest level and the appropriate grade level of the book. This may only work for books that are in their system but they do have an enormous range of books.

Another way to find the readability of a text is to type in or scan a page of text into Microsoft Word and to do a spell check. The readability statistics will also be shown. On some versions of word you may need to use the options function to turn the readability formula on.

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