September 22, 2008

Need High-Low books with Lexile measures?

One of the great uses of Lexile measures is to help connect struggling and reluctant readers to books they are able to read. But let's be realistic here -- these readers have to want to read the books as well. It's a challenge to find easy-to-read books that are also relevant to an older student's life. Fortunately, authors and publishers are responding to this need. Librarians, too -- did your public library have such a large "young adult" section 5 years ago? Mine grew from a shelf to a room in that span, with a devoted staff member.

These books are called "high-low" books -- high-interest plus low-readability. The idea is that if you have a 10th grader who is reading at 550L (and chances are overwhelming that you do), you're not going to hand him Magic School Bus books. He's practically old enough to drive a school bus. The cartooney cover image will turn him off and he won't likely connect with the content either. High-low books stand a much better chance that he'll give them a chance and start turning the pages.

Despite their short sentences and basic vocabulary, high-low books deal with teen and adult issues and life situations. The young adult characters in high-low suspense stories find dead bodies in the lake or avenge a murdered brother, rather than investigate a stolen teddy bear or stand up to a lunchroom bully. And they sometimes use four-letter words other than "gosh" and "darn," by the way.

Several publishers that we work with specialize in high-low books or have an imprint devoted solely to them. Do your homework on these books before recommending them to your particular students. Read the summary and some reviews. Also, the publishers sometimes let you see a few preview pages on their sites.

Perfection Learning has several series of fiction chapter books in the 600L and 700L zones. The main characters are high-schoolers. "Passages to History" gives compelling stories set during historical periods such as the Civil Rights Era and the Great Depression. Lots of opportunities to make connections to social studies lessons! "Passages to Adventure" and "Passages to Suspense" contain gripping fiction stories with intense situations. If these were television shows, they'd be on after 9pm. Over 700 Perfection Learning books have Lexile measures, the majority of which are between 300L and 800L.

Don Johnston, Inc. specializes in rewriting great works to lower readability levels and word counts. Over 100 Don Johnston books have Lexile measures, the majority of which are between 400L and 800L. Series such as "Classic Literature," "Famous Short Stories," and "Myths and Legends" are part of their Start-to-Finish Library reading product, which features texts in several different media formats. Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," for instance, is rewritten at well over 300L below the original.

Coughlan Companies / Capstone Publishers has several imprints with great high-low books as well as genres catering to reluctant readers:
  • Capstone Press
  • Keystone Books
  • Stone Arch Books
  • Picture Window Books
  • Compass Point Books
My daughter particularly likes their "You Choose" series, which gives historical information about periods and events such as the California Gold Rush or the Underground Railroad in the form of a choose-you-own-adventure fiction book. She also likes their graphic novelizations of classic lit.

Orca Book Publishers has two high-low imprints. Orca Soundings (25 measured titles) is for high school students, and Orca Currents (6 measured titles) is for middle schoolers, all written at upper elementary school levels. These imprints have been particularly lauded by teen readers for their authenticity -- the characters talk like people really talk. Librarians have also praised these books. They are conspicuous on the shelves of the young adult area in my local public library, and the young adult librarian called them "addictive." Circulation demands that she buy two or more copies of each Orca book.

-- posted by Chris Vitiello, School-Based Initiatives


Margaret Reed said...

Chris your timing is perfect! I just received a call from a teacher who asked how he could meet the needs of an older stduent who was reading in the 600L range. It was great having a list of high-interest, low-vocabulary book series at my fingertips. Thank you!

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Jen said...

I'm glad I found this Blog; hoping someone can help.

I have SEVERAL VERY low high school readers - their initial SRI puts them around 200-400 Lexile. I have an extensive library beginning around 250L myself. We use Read-180 and I have access to some System 44 materials, but the problem is that they don't find most of the R-180 books books interesting enough. They're also insulted, I think, by how skinny the books are. We're already 3 weeks into school and I fear I'm losing them already. Any suggestions for Orca-like series with SUPER LOW Lexiles geared towards middle-high school?