Draining the Fun out of Reading

Lexile Levels are Outdated and Ineffective


Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash

Lexile Levels are restricting children from reading the books they want to read.

Janet Han, Section Editor

Did you read “Night” by Elie Wiesel in third grade? How about “The Sun Also Rises,” by Ernest Hemingway? Well, the MetaMetrics’ Lexile Framework for Reading, or the “Lexile,” classifies both books at a third-grade level. 


Most are familiar with the Lexile, which, according to the Lexile’s official website, assigns a number to both students and books in order to “match” students to the books will “put them on the path to success in school, college, and careers.” The students are assigned their Lexile numbers through assessments that measure “reading ability and text complexity on the same developmental scale.”


While some matches may be accurate, however, the scale fails to correctly classify an alarming number of books. Some more alarming literary classifications, according to The Washington Post, are:


  •  “The Power and the Glory,” by Graham Greene (710): 3rd-4th grade
  •  “The Sound and the Fury,” by William Faulkner (800): 4th-5th grade
  • “Fahrenheit 451,” by Ray Bradbury (890): 4th-6th grade
  •  “Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Book One),” by Jeff Kinney (950 ): 5th-9th grade
  •  “Tender is the Night,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (990): 5th-8th grade
  • “O is for Orca: A Pacific Northwest Alphabet Book,” by Andrea Helm (1050): 5th-9th grade
  •  “Dear Dumb Diary: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened,” by Jim Benton (1120): 6th-10th grade


Such an arbitrary measure of reading level also poses an issue for students, especially because they tend to view the levels as a way of classifying themselves. For example, students may compare their levels, making some feel inferior if they have a lower level than their peers. 


This creates an unhealthy reading environment for the young. As technology is already becoming a major factor against reading, the last thing that children need is yet another reason not to read. 


Lexile levels also deter readers from certain books, which they may feel are below their level. However, it is better for children to be reading books that they genuinely enjoy rather than forcing themselves to read books that are “above their Lexile level.”


Not only that, but the levels don’t include nonfiction; this can cause students to overlook nonfiction books as a whole. Similarly, they also discourage children from reading about certain topics that are considered “inappropriate.” As a result, students are sheltered from subjects that are all too real in the world around them, making it all the more difficult for them when they are faced with difficult situations or required to learn history later. 


Raymond Nguyen (12) agrees, pointing out that “it is more important [for children] to be reading what they want to read instead of focusing too much on the Lexile level of the book.”


Even more importantly, reading should not be directed by a measure of numbers and letters. Rather, everyone—but especially young children—should be allowed to choose which books to read without feeling pressured by their Lexile level. 


Children are already burdened with the necessity of reading required texts in class, so Lexile levels pose yet another unnecessary attempt to control what children read. It is time for reading to be dictated not by an arbitrary system like the Lexile levels, but rather by choice and for the sake of entertainment.