My daughter came home from school yesterday with a book fair ad. We excitedly started looking at all the books and trying to decide which one we should buy. As a kindergartner, her choices are limited, and it will take some parental guidance to bring the right one home. As I was looking through the options I saw little icons at the bottom of each description telling me the Lexile level and if there was an Accelerated Reader or Reading Counts quiz on the book. That immediately became my focus. "Is there a RC quiz? Great! We'll look at it." or "No quiz? What?!? Forget that!"
Fortunately that conversation happened silently in my head not out loud in front of my daughter.
When Tolkien sat down to write The Hobbit, I'm fairly certain he wasn't aiming for a certain Lexile score. "I think I can hit 900. I'm pretty sure of it." When it came out as a 1000, did he jump for joy and fist-bump CS Lewis? Or did Lewis have a pity party when The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe came out as a mere 940. Of course not.
Authors write books to tell a story, not as a way for students to take tests.
I write this knowing full well the irony of my post. I am the AR Guy at my school. I do see the value in checking comprehension of a story, and these tests are a good measure to do that. After all, comprehension is the main building block to higher level thinking. If a student doesn't understand the basics of the story, how can we use that story to compare and contrast with other stories, characters, and plots?
The danger comes when we focus solely on the comprehension test. That's where my daddy role got in the way of my professional knowledge. Knowing that my daughter is into taking these Reading Counts tests at her school, that became my main focus when looking for a book.
Tonight, I think I'll look for the actual content of each book to see what she will enjoy and forget about the stupid test.