Text Complexity

Reading is critical for a student’s continued success in school.

The type of reading that takes place should be varied. Books, magazines, online reading are all good to add to the reading diet. Fiction and nonfiction are both essential. Easy reading mixed with more complex text is a good thing. But if your child is stuck reading nothing but “Dork Diaries” books, it’s critical to branch out and add more complex text to their reading diet.

Text complexity is determined using a number of factors such as sentence length and the difficulty of the vocabulary used in a piece of writing.

Below is a graphic showing how the Common Core Standards are offering more rigor in reading when it comes to text complexity.

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Looking at the 4th and 5th grade “Lexile Bands,” you can see a BIG shift upward in the levels of text complexity. What does this mean for you?

For one thing, when your child is reading Newsela articles at home, try selecting a Lexile level that’s appropriate for 5th or 6th grade and read with your child. By doing so, you can get a feel for what your child is expected to read.

If you feel the reading in a Newsela article is too complex, work with your child to make sense of the words or to navigate through the lengthier sentences. Afterwards, try reading a Lexile level down to see and feel how the reading goes with your child. Keep impressing upon your child that reading isn’t a passive sport. We’re reading to get something out of the text: enjoyment, information, knowledge, to answer wonderings we might have.

Next, take time to read shorter works of nonfiction with your child or longer works of fiction. Pick a short book on something related to animals or science and read through it in an evening or two. Share your wonderings or discuss new and weird words or ideas. “Honey is really bee vomit?” is one of my favorite lines ever spoken to me by my middle child.

Pick a fiction novel-one that’s maybe slightly more complex than what your child would read by themselves-and read with your child. I’m sad to say that my 12 year old daughter no longer opts to read with me. She did up through age 11 but no more. I relish those memories, and I’m proud that she’s a proficient and independent reader who enjoys young adult novels on her own. I know she became that way because of my wife and I reading with her from birth through 6th grade.

Reading is critical to your child’s continued brain development. Thinking and using that brain forms new, neural connections. Let’s keep your child reading, thinking, building their vocabulary, and getting smarter.