Wednesday, July 19, 2017

My Journey with a Leveled Library

Discussions on leveling books and libraries seems to be elevated lately. This topic was the discussion in several conferences this week so tweets were flying.  The National Council of Teachers of English  posted "What's Your Lexile Score?" today.

This trend has me thinking about my own journey with a leveled library.

I teach in an Accelerated Reading district, and most of the classroom libraries are leveled. When I first began teaching, my library was leveled too. That's just how it was done, and I didn't know any better.

After reading professional books, especially The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, I began to see the light and the damage I was doing to my students. I began to slowly add baskets of popular series and authors, as well as baskets of genres and nonfiction topics. Because I taught 4th grade, many of my students did not know how to choose a book other than from the leveled baskets. 

We had a learning curve which I continue to fight today. One the of the first discussions I have with my middle schoolers is what they notice about our classroom library. Many immediately notice that the books are not leveled, and I tell them they never will be. I teach them to choose books based on their preferences and how to determine if a book is appropriate for them. This is part of teaching the reader.

I worked with a teacher who had a different philosophy of teaching reading then I did, especially when it came to AR. We often disagreed, and he often quoted, "Programs don't teach readers, teachers do." 

He is absolutely correct, and I agree 100%. 

But what is a leveled library doing? Many libraries are organized by matching colored baskets, clearly labeled with AR levels.  This "program" is teaching our students how to choose books.  Not teachers. 

I will continue to fight against "programs teaching readers" and limiting their ability to choose books for themselves. I will continue to advocate for choice.

My journey with a leveled library has ended.


  1. Love it! Sounds to me like you are using your olw to RISE above the levels. I struggle with this every year too. We also "use" AR and I am required to label my books with F/P levels. I have progressively expanded my genre/author/interest baskets and the leveled tubs are fewer and fewer, but I still have some! I was thinking I might move the level to the inside cover and move all those books to genre/author/interest tubs. They are still leveled, but the importance of the level is not showcased. Keep fighting the good fight!

  2. Leigh Anne, thank you for sharing your learning. We have all been there in one way or another. As we learn, we grow, and sharing learning is the best!

  3. Well said! Keep up the good work, your students will benefit every day!

  4. Being a relatively new teacher, I have not had the experience of working with reading programs. Fortunately, my district whole-heartedly supports the reading workshop model and choice for students. I am part of a cohort this year that will receive training on implementing the reader's (and writer's, I think) workshop models in the ELA classrooms. From what I saw on the outline, we be blessed to hear from Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle during this cohort. Beyond excited!!! Thanks for sharing your passion. Looking forward to gleaning more from you.