How can you figure out their reading level? - Mothering Forums

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Old 09-16-2011, 10:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Dd is 7 and in 2nd grade. She read the entire Harry Potter series this summer.

 

At school, they use the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) system. Under this system, apparently it's not reliable/valid/allowed (? I dunno, but it's against the 'rules') to test more than a year above grade level. So, dd's teacher tested her on the highest DRA level he could (38 - the max at the end of the year will be 40). This corresponds to third grade level.

 

I KNOW dd is decoding and comprehending at a higher level. I want to ask the school to test her reading so we have a real plan for what type of material she needs to be working on. Her teacher is willing and able to give her books at a higher level, but it's going to be hit or miss unless we know she's getting stuff at her level.

 

Any ideas on what tests do allow an accurate assessment of current reading level (decoding and comprehension) for kids who are more than a single grade level ahead? (she's more like 3-4). Her decoding is probably a bit weaker than her comprehension, if that matters.

 

 


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Old 09-17-2011, 12:25 AM
 
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Kids get all that DRA stuff a lot in school when they're learning to read. I can almost see the point of doing it when they're learning. But your dd has already learned to read. It's not rocket science to "give her books at a higher level." Harry Potter is at about 5th-7th grade level (check the reading level on the back cover, or use an Accelerated Reader database for a rough estimate). After reaching that reading level the focus in schools generally moves to analysis, but she's not likely developmentally reading to be analyzing narrative voice and abstract themes. She just needs to keep enjoying reading. She'll benefit from absorbing all those stories, all that vocabulary. What her teacher should do is just let her find some books that look interesting and challenging. There's nothing hit and miss about it. She picks them, she reads them. 

 

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Old 09-17-2011, 09:02 AM
 
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Following on what Miranda's saying, reading levels also stopped being meaningful to us in second grade.  Determining reading level in terms of grade level equivalent is now neither useful or meaningful.  Think about not so much learning to read at a higher level with regards to difficulty, but to read at a higher level with regards to comprehension and analysis.  A local mom whose kid was at a similar level set up a book club.  They read stuff that wasn't anywhere near their limit, but they were quite at their level in terms about learning to discuss the book, and move towards making inferences about motivations of the characters, prediction of what might happen after the end, etc.

 

This year DD's teacher (4th grade) is working with the kids to pay attention to the words.  During their reading time, kids keep track of interesting words, new ways to use a word or phrase, or a word they've not encountered before.  I think this is a really interesting approach in terms of asking the kids to pay attention not just to the meaning, but how authors are using language.

 

 

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Old 09-17-2011, 12:26 PM
 
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DD is 7 and in 2nd too. Last week she maxed out on the individual reading assessment, which went up to level-P, using Fountas and Pinnell guided reading levels. Surprisingly, her teacher says the school has ordered additional materials in order to evaluate her in a higher range, and will do another assessment when the new materials are in.  I guess that is consistent with the school's desire to measure and track everyone's progress throughout the year, but I guess I wasn't expecting them to order anything special. If I can find out what they use for the higher level assessment, I will check back in.  Anyway, I think it's more for reporting purposes, and not so much for deciding what books she should read.

 

In my experience, the supposed-level of the books isn't necessarily accurate or useful for guiding her reading at this point.   She can generally read what she is interested in reading, and has learned to use a dictionary if she gets stuck on a word.  I make an effort to help her find a couple of non-fiction books with each trip to the library, so it's not all the same fiction series books. 

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Old 09-17-2011, 12:56 PM
 
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Anyway, I think it's more for reporting purposes, and not so much for deciding what books she should read.

 

In my experience, the supposed-level of the books isn't necessarily accurate or useful for guiding her reading at this point.   She can generally read what she is interested in reading


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Totally agree! My unschooled kids never got a single reading assessment, or any "guided reading assignements" or anything of the sort. Amazingly enough they all learned to read very well indeed and continued to find interest, challenge and opportunities for growth through reading.

 

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Old 09-17-2011, 01:58 PM
 
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Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

 

I want to ask the school to test her reading so we have a real plan for what type of material she needs to be working on. Her teacher is willing and able to give her books at a higher level, but it's going to be hit or miss unless we know she's getting stuff at her level.


Hit and miss works just fine. We didn't worry about reading levels through elementary school. My kids read some easy books and some hard books, they re-read favorite books, etc. They were always avid readers, and I never worried about "levels."  They homeschooled until they were 10 and 12. When they entered school and finally had their reading tested, they both tested at college level.

 

I think the best ways to increase reading level are to take a child to a library and/or book store regularly, and read books aloud to them that are slightly harder/longer/etc than they are currently picking up on their own.

 

But having been around lots of kids and books (I volunteer in the school library) keeping that love of the written word alive is more important than the level.  Lots of kids can read quite well but choose not to.

 


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Old 09-18-2011, 06:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OK, I can understand that reading levels are probably useless now that she's hit the level of proficiency that she's hit. I'm still ticked with the DRA people about their assumption that children shouldn't be reading any higher than a grade level ahead. Dd is reading everything easy to hard books with a high level of comprehension. What I'm worried about is that she will get 'busy work' associated with lower level stuff, and they school will not dig deep enough to figure out how to keep her mind engaged.

 

She loves reading and we go to the library a lot. She usually checks out 20-30 books at a time (we go every 2-3 weeks) and reads most of them. So, I'm not worried about her continuing to read. I'm worried about the fact that she's beginning to hate reading time at school. (And no, homeschooling isn't an option based on my work and our personalities. I would last through about one "no, I won't do it!" from her before enrolling her back in school.)

 

 

 

 


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Old 09-18-2011, 06:47 PM
 
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Ahhh, I'd misunderstood the problem.

Yes, we ran into that, compounded with the fact that second grade was DD's second year in that room, so she'd read them all. Some of the problem was that, to show annual progress, they would only evaluate up to a rather modest ceiling. Some teachers will interpret this as a consequence of district policy, and provide anyways. Others wouldn't.

We had to address this by first asking the teacher to provide appropriate reading material, then by us providing her reading material at school. When that stopped working, we addressed it formally through a mediation meeting with the school. Let's hope that doesn't come to that, eh?
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Old 09-18-2011, 07:53 PM
 
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Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

I'm still ticked with the DRA people about their assumption that children shouldn't be reading any higher than a grade level ahead. 

 

I don't think the problem is with their assumption so much as with the design of the Assessment testing package: it's designed for K-3. If you have a kindergartener, it's easy to extend the testing up to four extra grade levels. But for students reading at a 4th grade level or beyond, the DRA runs out and there's an entirely different testing package and procedure that's used. At least that's the case in Canada. They have something called the DRA 4-8 that's used once kids exceed 3rd grade level and it's used much less commonly and requires a very different assessment. I think the problem is the assumption within your school or within your dd's classroom: that children must read from books at a level they've been tested to using the DRA. 

 

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Old 09-18-2011, 08:24 PM
 
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I'm Canadian, so we don't have exactly the same sort of testing.  It does seem to me, though, that there must be some sort of way to get the school to allow her more engaging books during reading time regardless of testing.  My daughter was reading several grades ahead at that age, and the teacher just fetched books from the higher grade classrooms (she was in grade one and she borrowed from the grade 5 teacher's stash) and let her read books from the library of her own choosing as well.  I think having a meeting with the teacher and saying you want to brainstorm on some ideas to help your daughter maintain a positive attitude about school as she's been feeling negatively about the reading time might be a start.  Avoid the bored word and try to show that you're really on board to work with the school to make the learning experience positive.  I had to have a couple of such meetings about my daughter in the past, but by now (grade 4) we have a good working solution.  She finishes the class Language Arts work, helps some of the kids who are having difficulty with their work (she never does it for them, just guides, the teachers have done a lot with her to show her how to help appropriately), then she can read books of her choosing or work on her journal or write creatively.  And during straight reading time she can read a book of any "level" she wants (she was past being in any of the "levels" in grade 2, so it wasn't of any consequence, anyway).  I'm fine with her doing the classroom work first because she has engaging reading and writing at her disposal afterward.  She's learning a lot about tolerance for the other students this way and not just about the reading and school work.


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Old 09-18-2011, 09:13 PM
 
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DD is 7 and in 2nd too. Last week she maxed out on the individual reading assessment, which went up to level-P, using Fountas and Pinnell guided reading levels. 

 

Ahh, thanks for this boston_slackermom. I guess these levels are what they're using in dd2's 2nd grade classroom, too. She was very annoyed to have to read Frog and Toad and Nate the Great, but I told her if she got through those quickly she could probably move ahead to something more her speed. They had her at level K to begin with (although she's on the 3rd Harry Potter in her spare time) and have now moved her up to level M. She's reading Junie B Jones now (so not my fave, but she enjoys it) although I think it's still a little below her level. She can usually read one in about 20-30 minutes.

 

We were in a private school last year and this year are in public. Dd2 is definitely bright and maybe gifted, though not PG. The stuff they're doing at the beginning of this year, though, is really, really, really easy. I think they're still benchmarking everyone, but if things don't improve soon I guess I'll have to be having a talk with the teacher. I had hoped to avoid that because I'm so not confrontational. Our district has a very high percentage of gifted and PG kids (college town), so I would hope they would have the resources to deal with a bright and/or gifted kid. They have 4 different gifted programs in the elementary schools. I guess I'll wait a bit more and see. Finger crossed.
 

 


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Old 09-19-2011, 09:32 AM
 
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At this point, I don't think it really matters her exact level. She's a fluent reader. Yes, age and life experience will keep her growing and moving into more adult literature but there is really nothing you have to DO to make that happen. I'd put together a book list of what your DD's been reading the last month and talk to the teacher about giving her alternate assignments. I know in 2nd grade, my DD got personalized spelling lists (more for vocab building than spelling) and did more book report/writing type assignments in place of any worksheets and such. Schools that use systems like DRA can be really particular about where assessments come from so not sure anything you could find online would be beneficial.


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Old 09-19-2011, 09:42 AM
 
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 She was very annoyed to have to read Frog and Toad and Nate the Great, but I told her if she got through those quickly she could probably move ahead to something more her speed. They had her at level K to begin with (although she's on the 3rd Harry Potter in her spare time) and have now moved her up to level M. 

 

We were in a private school last year and this year are in public. Dd2 is definitely bright and maybe gifted, though not PG. The stuff they're doing at the beginning of this year, though, is really, really, really easy. I think they're still benchmarking everyone, but if things don't improve soon I guess I'll have to be having a talk with the teacher.

 


My 5-soon to be 6 yr old DDs are in 1st and reading around level M (rainbow magic fairy) at home. At school , as you said- they are benchmarking everyone still. School has only been in session one full week and 1/2 the first week. 

 

Just check in in a week or so and see what is in the works.

 

I know the beginning of the year is VERY VERY easy intentionally to make the kiddos feel successful and review from a long summer break/or touch base from kiddos that have moved in.

 

But dont be afraid to schedule a meeting in a week or so if you want more information. I know that one of my DDs is very outspoken on what she knows and the other is not- I want to make sure they are both working at the right level from them and their abilities.

 

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Old 09-19-2011, 05:19 PM
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My 5 yr. old was tested at level T at the end of K, but that's pretty much irrelevant in his classroom now. The teacher uses those levels to place kids in reading groups (of 3), so he will always be in the highest level group. The books they are reading are at a range of reading levels because they're working on other things-- literary concepts like setting, plot, climax, etc. as well as vocabulary and making connections to their lives and other texts. They mostly use high level picture books in his group.

If the problem is that the books are boring ("leveled readers" often are), I would put up a fuss. They should be able to find interesting reading, even if it is at a 3rd grade level (which is pretty silly, of course, but shouldn't cause anyone to hate reading).

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Old 09-21-2011, 07:02 AM
 
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What I'm worried about is that she will get 'busy work' associated with lower level stuff, and they school will not dig deep enough to figure out how to keep her mind engaged.

lynn what i have noticed in our school district is that they are reluctant to send the kids to another class for reading, meaning a higher grade. they will do that for math willingly - but not for reading. 

 

i think talking to the teacher might be your best bet. she might have dd's level of books to read in class if dd finishes early. i am not sure how she would fit in everything involved with reading to another level - spellings, comprehension, etc that they do together in the class with overheads. 

 

since they all read together i have found its hard to differentiate in the lower grades esp. dd's 3rd grade teacher was awesome anng d was able to differentiate easily. but so far she was the only one. 
 

one thing you might want to find out. how much of the curriculum do they actually do in class and how much is left over. in our school the teacher is unable to do about i think the last 40 lessons if i remember right. perhaps the teacher might let your dd work on those if she feels she has the skills required. 

 

dd has the decodable books. and our teacher was ok with us really not doing it which really was against school policy. 


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Old 09-21-2011, 06:11 PM
 
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lynn what i have noticed in our school district is that they are reluctant to send the kids to another class for reading, meaning a higher grade. they will do that for math willingly - but not for reading. 

 

What's funny is that we've found the opposite. DS is globally gifted but probably approaches profoundly gifted in math, though in terms of language arts, he's only 1-2 grade levels ahead in decoding, a bit more in comprehension. His K teacher actually bumped him up in reading but did nothing for math. This year, he's a one-person reading group in his class, but so far, we haven't gotten any info about math, other than his teacher making a blanket statement that kids often can get the right answer in math without understanding. I often think a child skewed toward language would be easier to handle in terms of school, but that may be a "grass is greener" feeling. We'll see with DD, who's both more highly gifted and more interested in language than DS.  
 

 


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Old 09-21-2011, 08:46 PM
 
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What's funny is that we've found the opposite. 


I think it's very common to see more differentiation in reading than math. I think schools recognize that literacy is partly dependent on developmental readiness, and therefore 'clicks' at different ages, resulting in a big range in ability in an age-levelled classroom. However, they often labour under the illusion that early math ability is about teaching, rote memory, practice and drill, and therefore a lockstep approach is all that's needed. Or that advanced kids can always benefit from more drill of the basics. There's also a fear that if kids get a year or two ahead in math, they'll "run out" of elementary school curriculum, and then what will they do in 6th grade? 

 

That's great that meemee has seen a real willingness to differentiate in math. My limited experience with our public elementary school suggests that reading differentiation is much more likely than math.

 

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Old 09-21-2011, 09:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, they finally started reading groups today, and so hopefully things will be looking up. It's only 30 minutes a day, but it's better than last week. They have something similar for math, I'm pretty sure. Our school is very reluctant to send kids to a higher grade level for reading or math, because each grade's schedule is slightly different. They've got to spread out the specials (PE/Music/Library/Counselor/Technology) at different times during the day. So, in 5th grade, reading's in the afternoon, and 2nd it's in the AM. I think dd would do well in a high 4th grade reading group, but I have no idea what time their reading is.

 

As far as reading level, things that are 'easy' (i.e. she can whip through them), are about a DRA level 38, Fountas-Pinnels O, and lexile about 600-650. Things that are 'just right' are DRA 48, Fountas-Pinnels W, Lexile 850-900. A stretch is DRA above 50, Fountas-Pinnels Z and Lexile 950-1000.

 

The good news is that they've agreed to let dd and 2 other 2nd graders take part in the Oregon Battle of the Books, even though it's supposed to be 3rd-5th grade. So, she'll get pulled out once a week for discussing these books, and then answering questions about them. The books range from 3rd to 5th grade level, with most solidly in 4th grade level. She's so excited to be part of this. She's too young to participate in the official competitions, but it's unlikely that a 2nd grader, no matter how advanced, would beat out 5th graders who've been doing this for 3 years.

 

 


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Old 09-21-2011, 10:00 PM
 
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in our school the 6th grade math children go to the nearest middle school to do 7th grade math. the school play monitor walks them there and walks them back  its a long walk. i think they start early too. sometimes a parent drives the few kids.

 

we have reading groups in class, but i have yet to see any go to another grade. 

 

lynn i am excited to see what ur school is doing and so excited to see your dd be able to read those books. i recall when you posted that link a while back. i keep referring to it for dd. in fact i enjoy children's fiction too and have myself read a few from that list. esp the autobiogs. 

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 There's also a fear that if kids get a year or two ahead in math, they'll "run out" of elementary school curriculum, and then what will they do in 6th grade? 

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Old 09-21-2011, 11:06 PM
 
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in our school the 6th grade math children go to the nearest middle school to do 7th grade math. the school play monitor walks them there and walks them back  its a long walk. i think they start early too. sometimes a parent drives the few kids.


That's a great solution. Many schools aren't willing to consider such outside-the-box solutions, whether due to funding constraints, liability issues or lack of creativity. Our school is a K-12, so theoretically this sort of thing would be simpler because it's "in-house." However they pride themselves on the K-7 curriculum being integrated, meaning there are no separate blocks of time for math vs. reading vs. science etc.: it's all one big ball of wax with civics rolled in with PE and math and language arts and so on. It's a lovely approach, except for the lack of the ability to subject accelerate with a more advanced class. 

 

Lynn, that all sounds very positive, especially the excitement your dd is feeling at being included in the OBB program. 

 

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Old 09-22-2011, 06:25 AM
 
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I think it's very common to see more differentiation in reading than math. I think schools recognize that literacy is partly dependent on developmental readiness, and therefore 'clicks' at different ages, resulting in a big range in ability in an age-levelled classroom. However, they often labour under the illusion that early math ability is about teaching, rote memory, practice and drill, and therefore a lockstep approach is all that's needed. Or that advanced kids can always benefit from more drill of the basics. There's also a fear that if kids get a year or two ahead in math, they'll "run out" of elementary school curriculum, and then what will they do in 6th grade? 

 

That's great that meemee has seen a real willingness to differentiate in math. My limited experience with our public elementary school suggests that reading differentiation is much more likely than math.

 

Miranda




I don't want to hi-jack the reading with math talk, so a quick comment.

 

I find that many elementary teachers aren't mathematical thinkers.  They see math as rote learning because they think it in verbal language and not visual spatial math language.  Thus the "Kids get the right answers without understanding" message.  I had the amazing opportunity as a kid to be in a mathematics club (all kids doing the national mathematics competition) and we were pulled out for our own class weekly, and got to really play with and be creative with math. I still love math, and will do math puzzles to relax.  I love calculus!  I have elementary teachers telling me "All kids hate math" if I try to broach the subject of making math more interesting for my daughter.  I couldn't find anything like a math club for my 2E son, who does love math (and sometimes the teachers act like this is pathological) and in his case Asperger's and verbally explaining method (the way it's done in typical elementary education) were a bad match.  Finally, he got a teacher last year who allows drawing and pattern mapping (with numbers) the thought process, rather than explaining or repeating her method.  It made a big difference and we got a lot more help with giving him math at his level (he's in grade 5 and at about grade 8 level for math), but at lower volume as his speed is behind.  He gets to test with grade level material, and the higher level stuff is enrichment to keep up interest.

 

As for the reading, I think a higher reading level is much more apparent to the average classroom teacher.  Really, she/he could simply get the child to read aloud from a boook at the suspected higher reading level, and ask a few comprehension questions.  It should be pretty apparent if they are ready for more.


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Old 09-22-2011, 07:04 AM
 
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The good news is that they've agreed to let dd and 2 other 2nd graders take part in the Oregon Battle of the Books, even though it's supposed to be 3rd-5th grade. So, she'll get pulled out once a week for discussing these books, and then answering questions about them. The books range from 3rd to 5th grade level, with most solidly in 4th grade level. She's so excited to be part of this. She's too young to participate in the official competitions, but it's unlikely that a 2nd grader, no matter how advanced, would beat out 5th graders who've been doing this for 3 years.

 

 


Hooray for good news! The Oregon Battle of the Books looks interesting, there are a few titles that I'm not familiar with but they look good. Just a heads up, in case your dd is sensitive, a couple of the books have some serious and possibly disturbing content for a younger reader. Number the Stars is set during WWII and deals with the Holocaust. Among the Hidden is a dystopian novel about tyranny and a rigid two-child policy for each family to control overpopulation, and the third-born child protagonist's life depends on remaining hidden. I haven't read Number the Stars, but I have read other Lowry titles and she's an excellent writer. I have read Among the Hidden and it's a very good introduction to some political and social concepts, but it may be tough for some 7 y.o.'s (2nd grade). I'm not saying that the books shouldn't be on the list or shouldn't be read, I'm just saying "heads up" if you weren't familiar with them. I think both are usually taught in later elementary or even middle school. I probably wouldn't bother raising the issue except for the recent thread in Learning at School, questioning Sept. 11 memorials for primary grade students. 

 

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Old 09-22-2011, 10:14 AM
 
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Number the Stars is set during WWII and deals with the Holocaust. 

 


For anyone familiar with the Holocaust it's clearly about the Holocaust, but it does do an impressive job of "not going there" specifically. For the unenlightened reader, it's just about the Jews avoiding capture during WWII, and the story set in Denmark is compelling enough to stand on its own. Many young kids may not think to ask what the Nazi's were intending after capturing the Jews, since "capture" is a well-recognized part of their mental construct of war. I read the book to my kids who were, oh, maybe 6, 8 and 11 at the time and only the 11-year-old knew that there was an elephant in the room.

 

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Old 09-22-2011, 10:44 AM
 
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For anyone familiar with the Holocaust it's clearly about the Holocaust, but it does do an impressive job of "not going there" specifically. For the unenlightened reader, it's just about the Jews avoiding capture during WWII, and the story set in Denmark is compelling enough to stand on its own. Many young kids may not think to ask what the Nazi's were intending after capturing the Jews, since "capture" is a well-recognized part of their mental construct of war. I read the book to my kids who were, oh, maybe 6, 8 and 11 at the time and only the 11-year-old knew that there was an elephant in the room.

 

Miranda

 

 

 


It's good to know that the novel itself isn't too explicit. It sounds like it would be easy enough to avoid problematic details or at least manage them as a family readaloud. This is part of a larger program that includes discussion and answering questions, so it's difficult to know exactly what the students may encounter in the classroom. If I had a sensitive child or one who was likely to pursue details about the Holocaust, I might want to do a little groundwork first, or speak with the teacher or librarian who will be working with the children to find out a little more about what is planned for the discussions. 

 

 

 

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Old 09-22-2011, 01:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The Oregon Battle of the Books is fantastic. There is a national one, and some other states have them, but in Oregon the program is huge. Our school (67% ESL, 80% poverty) fields about 8 teams. The high income schools field a lot more.

 

Yes, I've looked at all the titles, and talked to the librarian. She was worried that some of the titles would be too hard/disturbing. But since dd did OK with the Harry Potter series, I think she can handle this. If she can't, she can stop reading it. We always read parts of the books they're reading out loud at bedtime, and so that's a good time to discuss them too.

 

Ds read Number the Stars last year at age 9 for his advanced reading group and was fine with it, and he's pretty sensitive. He also read Among the Hidden and most of the follow-up novels last year. He wasn't bothered at all. I am a little worried about dd and that one. I, personally, have a very hard time with dystopian novels. But, since she's a "junior" member, she doesn't have to read all of them. Actually, the kids only agree to read 8 of the 16. Now, the teams that win have all kids reading all the novels (usually twice). But right now, I'm glad she's in a group of kids who like to read and talk about books. If she skips a few, that's OK. She's already read 11 Birthdays. She's done OK with the American Girl books about Addy, and we've had some talks about slavery, unfair wages for the servant class (based on Samantha books) and the like. As long as it's not personally threatening, I think it'll be OK. Her biggest fears are robbers and waves.

 

I think being with the older kids will be good for her, too, in that she'll have some role models for regulating her emotions. We're having real trouble with emotional regulation right now. Sigh.


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Old 09-23-2011, 05:45 PM
 
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If she's reading Harry Potter, then she'll probably be fine with the titles. In the later books, especially, the Harry Potter series is fairly dystopian in nature. 

 

My dc participated in a similar book challenge and I agree, these are fantastic programs. I think the book list typically included 10 fiction and 10 non-fiction titles, which was terrific for the students who weren't particularly interested in novels. It seemed like almost every year, there would be conflict about a selected title - subject-matter or language or age-appropriateness or something that caused a ruckus. Because the students didn't have to read every book on the list to participate in the program, the protests were usually manageable.

 

Since she enjoys this reading program, perhaps the school librarian (or a dedicated parent volunteer) could continue with a multi-age book club for enthusiastic readers after the Battle of the Books ends.

 

 

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