AR and Reading Levels

As I’ve said before, my son is a reluctant AR reader (AR = Accelerated Reader).  Turn him loose in a bookstore, and he’ll find something to read.  He pours over vintage books as well as new.  Photo laden books.  Text laden books.  He just loves books.

But tell him that he has to read for AR, and it all comes to a screeching halt.

I’ve been mulling this over for some time and I think that part of the problem is the reading levels.  As a 7th grader, he’s not allowed to test on anything below a 6th grade reading level.  Unless, of course, its something at a 4th grade reading level that the whole class is reading.

He complained and I wondered.  “How tough could it be?”  To prove how easy it was to find middle grade books (his interest level) written at a 6th grade level or above, I started pulling books off our shelves and checking the AR reading levels. Here is some of what I found:

  • The Clockwork Three by Mathew Kirby, Middle Grade, AR Level 4.5
  • Kid vs Squid by Greg van Eekhout, Middle Grade, AR Level 5.0
  • The Time Thief by Linda Buckley-Archer, Middle Grade, AR Level 6.8
  • Trading Places with Tank Talbott by Dori Hilstead Butler, Middle Grade, AR Level 3.4

I checked about 15 middle grade books but the numbers looked a lot like the above.  The interest level was dead on for my son but only 1 in 4 books had the required reading level.

Then I started checking out some adult books just for the heck of it.

  • A Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman, AR Level 4.7
  • The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson, AR Level 6.8
  • Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maquire, AR Level 7.2

Notice anything?  Even when you get into adult, or Upper Level, books, the reading levels are all over the place but still not consistently high enough that he would be allowed to test on them.

I’m not sure what this means for us as writers, but it has me thinking…