Rethinking "Just Right" Texts

What is a "just right" text?  Chapter 5 of Reading Wellness suggests there is a broad range of texts that are appropriate for independent reading.  Learn a fun, hands on analogy you can use to help describe different levels of texts.
Today is all about Chapter 5 for Adventures in Literacy Land's blog study on Reading Wellness: Lessons in Independence and Proficiency by Jane Miller Burkins and Kim Yaris.  Make sure to check out my previous posts (IntroChapter 1Chapter 2, Chapter 3, & Chapter 4) as well as those over on Lit Land. Don't forget that you can access the book online (currently free from Stenhouse Publishers) if you want to check it out before purchasing.
What is a "just right" text?  Chapter 5 of Reading Wellness suggests there is a broad range of texts that are appropriate for independent reading.  Learn a fun, hands on analogy you can use to help describe different levels of texts.

Promoting Independence

Have you ever had to do something difficult and just given up before you even started?  Or maybe you plowed through and just did it anyway?  Odds are that if you worked through the difficult task, you felt quite successful upon completing it.  Our students are the same way.  They often feel that they cannot do things...but feel beyond proud of themselves when they DO complete these seemingly impossible tasks.  One of my daughter's favorite phrases right now is "I did it!"  She's only one and lights up all the time when she says this.  I'm not even sure where it came from.  Hopefully it was from me encouraging her, but who knows.  

In this chapter (really, the entire book), the authors emphasize independence.  Kids cannot always be relying on adults to be present and help them when something difficult arises (in and out of school!).  This brings us to reading.  What criteria have you used to teach your students to select texts?  How often do you find yourself telling students that the books they have chosen are too hard or too easy?  The authors suggest that we need to rethink "just right" texts.  Students need to learn how to approach many levels of texts independently.

What are "Just Right" Texts?

Burkins and Yaris suggest that the term "just right" needs to refer to a broader range of texts than we have typically taught in the past.  The five finger rule is simply too narrow.  Many students come to a word they don't know and just give up before even attempting to figure it out.  The authors try to stay away from the words easy and hard.  Instead the appropriateness of the book depends on the reader and the situation.  For example, a child may be reading a series of books that he/she can easily decode.  These books are great for practicing fluency and maybe even character development.  They probably do not present much of a challenge in terms of vocabulary or comprehension.  But they still serve a purpose for the child.  Other texts may provide more of a challenge with vocabulary or using context clues.  The idea isn't just to read harder, bigger, or longer books but to meet the needs of the reader, which vary from day to day.

Lifting Weights

I love, love, love the analogy the authors have come up with to help students understand the variety of texts that they can and should be reading.  They use weights!  

So an easy book might be a 3 pound weight.  It doesn't take that much effort.  But it's still a little bit of work, just not very stressful.  Then there are 5 pound books.  These books can be challenging, but usually the reader can overcome the difficulties.  8 pound books require even more effort, but with lots of work, the challenge can be met.  Then there are 10 pound books.  These require ALL of our effort and attention and can probably only be read a little bit at a time.

My mind is full of ideas for using this scale.  Students can learn to read a variety of texts independently and star to understand that different texts require different amounts of effort and attention.  The text comes with a great chart with a description of each level of text and a lesson which includes using actual weights to help students understand the analogy. 

Meeting the Intentions of the Text

As I explained in my introduction to the text, the authors have four main intentions with each lesson in the book and end each chapter explaining how they are met.  
What is a "just right" text?  Chapter 5 of Reading Wellness suggests there is a broad range of texts that are appropriate for independent reading.  Learn a fun, hands on analogy you can use to help describe different levels of texts.Do you encourage your students to choose texts of varying difficulties for independent reading?
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What is a "just right" text?  Chapter 5 of Reading Wellness suggests there is a broad range of texts that are appropriate for independent reading.  Learn a fun, hands on analogy you can use to help describe different levels of texts.

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