Reading is Fundamental
A while ago I came across this amazing organization called Reading is Fundamental, that seeks to get books to children across the American nation, but also help them foster a love for reading. A service that is crucial and so amazingly helpful for areas of high poverty and minorities.
What caught my eye is their Multicultural Literacy Campaign where they are promoting reading and early literacy in African American, Hispanic, and American Indian communities.
The statistics they gathered show
Children with poor reading skills face a bleak future—throughout their school years and into adulthood. A limited reading acumen means poor grades in the classroom, no or low-wage employment, and possibly a life of frustration.
This problem is most evident in several ethnic communities, where reading scores among African American, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native children lag behind those of White children. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2009):
- 77% of White 4th grade students scored at or above the Basic Reading level.
- 48% of Hispanic 4th graders scored at or above the Basic Reading level.
- 52% of American Indian/Alaska Native 4th graders scored at or above the Basic Reading level.
- 47% of African American 4th graders scored at or above the Basic Reading level.
It is good to see organizations putting a spotlight on this. They even have a reading list of multicultural titles (even though they are only of Kindergarten through fourth grade).
Organizations like this are great because they are setting their sights on goals to get multicultural kids at the same levels as their Caucasian peers, and the easiest way to do it is through getting them books as early as possible and making sure that these kids have books to call their own at home.
Newspapers in the Classroom: Picking the Right Paper
There are plenty of newspapers with extra components for use by teachers — weekly highlighted articles, lesson plans, maybe even sections written at a level more appropriate for young readers. But if you just want to pull in the local paper, there may not be any special programs attached.
Sometimes we can just go by general feel when trying to decide whether or not a piece of writing is at the right level for our students. If we want something more measured, however, and we’re not working with a publication that’s necessarily meant for the classroom, there are a few ways of going about it.
The two I’m using here are just estimations, and their results don’t actually match. They’re consistent, though — the first method is almost always about two reading levels higher than the second — so it gives you a general frame of reference. And, of course, these are good for more than just newspapers. Any text you can copy-paste (or type in) can be leveled.
What I do is go to the newspaper’s website and find either the article I’m specifically using that day in digital format, or, several related articles just to get an average reading level.
1. Leveling your Paper with Microsoft Word
This is for Word on Microsoft 7. It might actually be easier to change these settings on earlier versions; from what I remember, the “tools” area was much more accessible there.
- Go to the Office button in the top left corner of Word. At the bottom of the drop-down menu are two small buttons — “Word Options” and “Exit Word.” Choose “Word Options.”
- On the left are your categories; go to “Proofing.” Look for the third heading down in the section - “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word” - and check the last box that says “Show readability statistics.”
Now, when you spell-check a document, you’ll get an extra window at the end that will tell you your counts, averages, and readability. For example, Word tells me the Flesch-Kinkaid reading level of this blog post up to the beginning of the directions is grade 9.9.
You’ll see in a second, though, why you should take that with a grain of salt. (But hey. Apparently I could write these things for high schoolers!)
2. Leveling your Paper with Online Generators
There are a number of online tools with which to assess the readability of a text — just search “readability calculator” or “reading level generator” in Google. Some are more potentially accurate than others, and I’d recommend testing a few out before you pick one to stick with. These are the two I use to get a balanced number.
OKAPI! assesses the readability using the Dale-Chall index and will also underline difficult vocabulary, give a word-count at the end of each line of text, and, at the end of the text, specify the formula used to find the raw score and grade level. According to OKAPI!, the same entry as in Word scored on a 7th-8th grade level.
The Readability Calculator at Online-Utility.org gives you the approximate grade level based on multiple tests. This is what my sample looked like:Coleman Liau index : 9.81 Flesch Kincaid Grade level : 10.43 ARI (Automated Readability Index) : 10.64 SMOG : 11.66
What makes this tool unique is that it also offers a list of sentences to consider revising in order to improve readability.
You might notice, by the way, that the Flesch Kincaid score I get from the Readability Calculator is not the same score that I got from Word. I don’t know exactly what it is that each does to get those scores, or how they come out differently, but it’s just another of those examples of YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).
And lastly, for anyone who really wants to get into the nitty-gritty, I found this article that walks you through calculating the levels yourself, by hand. I personally don’t know who would have the time to do this on a regular basis, but I have to admit that doing it at least once sounds like it could be fun.
Regarding this post of yours: andyouhavetogivethemhope/tumblr/com/post/31057433119 -- The fact that Michelle Obama *can* make speeches that are at a college reading level is praiseworthy, but the fact that she habitually *does* strikes me as a form of ableism or classism - her speeches are most likely less accessible to less intelligent or less educated people. (I also note that she scores lowest in 'reading ease'.) This doesn't seem so unambiguously praiseworthy to me.
this is actually a good point and one that i admittedly overlooked. (here is the post adelene is referring to)
however, i would like to see some evidence regarding your claim that she “habitually does” give high level speeches because i am curious if the first lady’s DNC speeches were crafted to reach out to a specific audience. the reading level of her 2008 and 2012 speeches both sat at about the level of the average 13-15yr old and the purpose of convention speeches is to rile up the party base, which is generally full of political junkies. perhaps when she’s giving a speech to a different audience, for example, like the speech she gave in RVA yesterday, the level then changes.
additionally, with these valid critiques, i’d like to ask, what exactly are we expecting michelle obama to do? are we asking her to lower the difficulty level of her speeches? and if so, what are the implications of such a request when we view it through a racial and gendered lens? is it asking her to subject herself to the intellectual stereotypes of black women?
“Lovely Emma Bovary read too many romance novels and the next thing she knew she was cheating on her husband, running up huge debts, and putting fistfuls of arsenic in her mouth.”—“Let us now praise libraries, librarians.” By: Anthony Doerr
Another Tool From Google to Improve Your Blog
Google has yet another tool out that I knew nothing about. Thanks to @ProBlogger for sharing the info on Google Reading Level. Test your blog and see if you are reaching the Genius Levels or the Average Joes!
Amplify’d from www.problogger.net
See this Amp at http://amplify.com/u/ao622