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
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