I recently came across this article from the School Library Journal and to hear Fountas and Pinnell themselves confirm some of the thoughts I’ve had about leveling recently, was reaffirming to me.
If any of you know me in real life, you know how big a proponent I am of Fountas and Pinnell and their benchmark assessment system. I still am. I think it’s an incredible assessment tool that can give teachers detailed and authentic information about their students as readers. Paired with their Literacy Continuum, I think teachers are armed with powerful tools that will help them deliver targeted instruction for their students.
On the other hand, I do believe that the “leveling” has gotten out of control. Fountas and Pinnell go on to say that the goal was never for children to become “labeled” with their reading levels. The goal was to teach about the characteristics of each level to help guide teachers to make informed decisions about their instruction – how to discuss a book, how to help students problem-solve as they process books, etc.
Classroom libraries should NOT be centered around leveled buckets. Try organizing your library in a different way. Group books by genre instead, or simply place them in alphabetical order and allow students to browse through like they would in a real bookstore. Students shouldn’t feel like they can’t explore books at a higher or lower level, just because they’re only at a certain level.
When the creators of the maybe the most influential leveling system even admit that the leveling of students has become out of hand, we as educators need to listen to that and shift our thinking.