Baen Begins Lexile Scoring for New YA Focus

Baen logoBaen Books has announced their first four books to have official scores in the Lexile score database from MetaMetrics. The Lexile scoring system is used by librarians, educators, and home schoolers across the country in order to match books with a student’s reading level. The four books are David Weber’s A Beautiful Friendship, for Treecat Wars and Fire Season by David Weber and Jane Lindskold, and for Tony Daniel’s epic fantasy The Dragon Hammer.

These specific Lexile scores will be available on each title’s respective page at Baenebooks.com,  and in the coming weeks the Lexile scores will be added to these titles’ pages on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and several other online outlets.

The four titles — along with their Lexile scores — are at the links below:

Baen will enter all future YA (and several YA-suitable) titles into their database moving forward in 2017. The publisher adds —

It is our hope that by doing so more students, home schoolers, and young adults across the country will be able to access a wider array of books via a process designed to match them with material at a reading level intended to continue to challenge them and help them grow.

The Lexile scores program is but one element of our program to make readable, story-centered science fiction and fantasy not only entertaining but useful to teachers, parents and educators. We also provide teaching guides for many of our titles. These are study documents made by educators for educators, containing guiding questions for class discussion, vocabulary banks, and more—all free of charge. Those can be found at the link below:

http://www.baen.com/ya_guides/Teachers_Guide_January_2016.pdf

 [Based on a press release.]

 

 

25 thoughts on “Baen Begins Lexile Scoring for New YA Focus

  1. Translation: We really, really hope that we can boost sales of these products by making seem more educationaleven if they aren’t. Sorry to cynical but this sound like that to me.

  2. Come on, Cat, don’t act like you’ve never read publicity before.

    If nothing else, people like me who didn’t already know such a scoring system exists will learn something.

  3. Lexile scores are pretty unreliable, in my experience. They’re based on analysis of a single small excerpt, 100 to 200 words, and the same book can get a vastly different score depending on the excerpt. For example, Sense and Sensibility has lexile ratings that vary by as much as 400 points without the basic text being different.

  4. It’s the first time I’ve even heard of such a system. And yes I see a lot of publicity in the range of about twenty such emails a week. Scholastic is the only that pitches their books as educational as damn near everyone else thinks of their books as entertainment.

    Don’t get me wrong — there’s a high push by every publisher to get nooks into schools but that’s generally a different group of staffers at a publisher .

  5. I think that this is an interesting program.

    A Lexile text measure is based on the semantic and syntactic elements of a text.

    Given that a book’s Lexile measure is assigned by a third party rather than by a publisher, it would seem to give the measure some consistency across books.

    And I recognize quite a few well-known YA publishers on the list of participating publishers.

    I would think, however, it would be even more useful if it also measured things like difficulty of concepts, the emotional maturity of the characters, and sexual content.

  6. JJ says I would think, however, it would be even more useful if it also measured things like difficulty of concepts, the emotional maturity of the characters, and sexual content.

    I’m not sure there’s anyway to objectively measuresany of the things you note as every organisation I know of has different criteria used in measuring those things. And thereby getting widely different results of, to use an example, what the sexual content of a given work is.

  7. *snarls*

    It’s part of “Reading” scholarship, based on a nicely quantitative system, that is part of their cookie-cutter approach to “education” (that assumes all students at the same age/grade level are more or less reading at the same level or should be). This concept has been around for decades: in 1960, I got in trouble in first grade because I had the audacity to be reading at a fourth grade level which led to the first of many teacher/parent conferences and much concern about What To Do With This Problem Child. (I stopped reading for a while because I was told I was doing it wrong which you know, not a great advertisement for an educational method).

    There may be some utility to the method (and I’ll admit freely to disciplinary bias), but the idea of “objective” categorizing of books especially based on the limits of the system (and I DO some corpus/stylistics or quantitative analysis of literary texts) is really really really……(bringing out the Big Weaponized Academic Work) problematic. And considering how many high school students (granted, I only can vouch for Texas) come out of public school hating to read…..well.

    The graduate “Reading” courses at our campus (not taught in the English department) tend to cover 40 children or YA books a term and are not exactly, shall we say, known for their rigor. (I also admit to being biassed because of years of evaluation comments about how MY (graduate) classes don’t assign books the teachers can take and use in their courses, and assign essays rather than lesson plans, and are, in effect, NOT Education classes).

    I don’t know how much luck Baen will have since the corporately owned textbook companies (owned by the same corporate entities that run the standardized tests) have the market pretty well sewn up, and “science fiction” is not exactly among your canonized genres for K-12.

    Some critiques of Lexile system:

    http://lexilebad.blogspot.com/

    http://mikemullin.blogspot.com/2012/10/how-lexiles-harm-students.html

    http://www.sdkrashen.com/content/articles/lexile2.pdf

  8. See, having an Official Number for a book lets you slot it into an Official System in which everything else has an Official Number that will of course lead to a standardized test (which start in grade school) that will give the student an Official Number.

    And result in students having a lot of numbers but not actually being able to do college-level work.

    Info on reading tests starting in Grade 2 in Texas:
    TELPAS Reading Released Tests Grades 2–12 for Texas.

  9. @JJI would think, however, it would be even more useful if it also measured things like difficulty of concepts, the emotional maturity of the characters, and sexual content.
    No doubt. But that is a subjective opinion, and one fraught with differences in community standards.

    Lexile scores can be calculated by software (“objectively”). MS Word allows you to calculate Flesch readability scores for a document, which loosely correlate with Lexile scores.

    @robinreidIt’s part of “Reading” scholarship, based on a nicely quantitative system, that is part of their cookie-cutter approach to “education” (that assumes all students at the same age/grade level are more or less reading at the same level or should be)

    The Lexile homepage specifically denies that Lexile scores should be associated with grade levels, and that all kids in a grade read at the same level.

    (and I’m not endorsing Lexile scores, just pointing out where you and they diverge).

  10. @Bill: The Lexile homepage specifically denies that Lexile scores should be associated with grade levels, and that all kids in a grade read at the same level.

    Sure it does! And all the paper mills have a homepage that explicitly states that the papers sold should be used as models only and not handed in as a student’s own work!

    Doesn’t stop students handing them in as their own work, and that disclaimer won’t stop the schools from doing what the schools have been doing for decades (and are being pushed even more to do by the standardized tests and state control).

    I’ve been teaching at this university for nearly 25 years, and have been on multiple committees regarding the certification programs and outside observer to dissertations in the College of Education and hearing from my alums teaching English about what they face daily and seeing the reports on the impact of the system (that Shrub really pushed as governor).

  11. Do you think there is any value to a number like a Lexile score, that attempts to somehow quantify the “difficulty” level of a book?

    (My son is in 4th grade, and his school reading program uses Accelerated Reader scores for his books, which seem to have something in common with Lexile scores. He’s required to get a cumulative total in AR points over a semester. Read a bunch of mid-score books, or read fewer high-score books.)

  12. in 1960, I got in trouble in first grade because I had the audacity to be reading at a fourth grade level
    I got in trouble, a few years before that, because I’d read the classroom assignment, then go do something else when I finished it. The teacher (inexperienced) thought I was mentally retarded. I was probably reading a couple of grades above where I “should have” been. (I don’t remember learning to read.)

  13. robinareid: See, having an Official Number for a book lets you slot it into an Official System in which everything else has an Official Number that will of course lead to a standardized test (which start in grade school) that will give the student an Official Number.

    And here I thought everybody in Texas agreed that once you start fencing the range things go to hell.

  14. @Mike: And here I thought everybody in Texas agreed that once you start fencing the range things go to hell.

    Them was the good ole days, podner!

  15. @PJ Evans: I got in trouble, a few years before that, because I’d read the classroom assignment, then go do something else when I finished it. The teacher (inexperienced) thought I was mentally retarded. I was probably reading a couple of grades above where I “should have” been. (I don’t remember learning to read.)

    *headdesk* Yes, there’s a lot of data about how students working above the “grade range” are often in trouble/tracked into lower classes (happened to my brother back in the day who could not sit still), etc.

    I don’t consciously remember learning to read, but family stories indicate it was about age three, though word recognition, not because anybody taught me but because I insisted on hearing my favorite books over and over again, apparently memorized them, and began reading. That was another problem: Phonics was big that year (all the research seems to indicate a mix of phonics and word recognition and lots and lots of fun/unregulated/untested reading works best, but also socio-economic class counts for a huge amount), and I was “reading wrong” because I didn’t know/use phonics (and maybe kind of resisted the idea that I should learn it with “Dick and Jane”).

  16. Two years ago, when my daughter was in sixth grade, we ended up going down the lexile rabbit hole because her lexile was very high (we were looking for things between 1350 and 1400) and the books at that syntactic level were very much not age appropriate. Most of the things that she was interested in reading were between 800 and 1000.

    I found a lot of lexile assignments that made no sense at all to me. There was a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book that was assigned a higher (more difficult) lexile rating than the King James Bible or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Working in our elementary school library, I saw that the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books were very readable by kids who weren’t particularly proficient at reading even in early grades.

    Things like The Hunger Games were, if I recall correctly, about 800 in terms of lexile rating. The most age appropriate thing I found in my daughter’s lexile range was The Scarlet Letter, and it really wasn’t appropriate. Our public library suggested some things, but they were all things like Jane Austen books that most eleven year olds would not be likely to enjoy or understand.

    We got lucky; my daughter’s school said that what lexile her books were didn’t matter, making a special exemption for her because her teachers felt that the content of the books in terms of theme and so on mattered more.

  17. I can see why people may be both sceptical and/or cynical about this but I think it is a very good thing. No Lexiles aren’t perfect but there is some solid thinking behind how they work and some good empirical verification of the Lexile scale.

    Adding more books to their corpus should help improve the scale and help educators get more kids reading.

    Yes, yes, yes there is a lot, lot more to a book than its Lexile score but that is a good(ish) way of quantifiying an aspect of the book that gives guidance.

    Should a self-motivated, book hungry kid pay much attention to the Lexile score of a book? No.
    But…a kid who is sort of interested in books, but finds it hard to start or finish one – a Lexile can be handy. A kid who really wants to read novels but who has specific learning difficulties around reading – again a Lexile is handy.
    And that’s why Baen getting onboard something like this is importnat because reading isn’t cookie-cutter and hence having MORE variety of books and hence more choices.

  18. I will spare everyone my typical lengthy rant about Lexile, AR, and other such systems, but I’ve had too many experiences with kids and parents looking for books and being told that they can ONLY have books within the set range. The kid wants a book with a slightly higher lexile score? Too bad! It won’t count for the assignment. I see these systems discourage more reading than encourage it.

    Regardless of the intended purpose of these systems, they ways in which they are employed are often detrimental.

  19. I don’t know from Lexile scores, but what seems odd to me in Baen’s announcement is the pitch to home schoolers.

    Perhaps my brushes with that crowd are atypical, but I associate home schooling largely with the “Don’t want our children learning about evolution or gays” contingent. I wouldn’t have thought they’d be terribly interested in handing SF books to their kids.

    The Baen folks are professionals and it’s their job to know these things so perhaps I need to re-examine my assumptions about the potential SF market to be found among home schoolers.

  20. Cat: Perhaps my brushes with them are atypical too — but I knew a couple who homeschooled, and the father WROTE published sf novels.

  21. @Cat, @Mike: There is a strong contingent of evangelical/fundamentalist homeschoolers but in recent years, especially on the “coasts,” there is a growing number of affluent/liberal households (college educated Mum usually doing the teaching quelle surprise) who are doing homeschooling. It has become quite a business, I gather (http://home-school.lovetoknow.com/Homeschooling_Business_Opportunities)

    And of course there’s debate:
    http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/02/homeschooling_and_unschooling_among_liberals_and_progressives_.html
    https://quarksandquirks.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/liberal-homeschooling/

    K8: I see these systems discourage more reading than encourage it.

    Regardless of the intended purpose of these systems, they ways in which they are employed are often detrimental.

    Amen!

  22. I have reservations about reading-level checkers in conjunction with science fiction, which tends to contain unfamiliar words and technical terms, but they’re generally pretty good for reining in overly complex sentences and vocabulary. I looked at a good representative sample on the Lexite website, though, and thought the range seemed a little wide. For instance, all these are level 830:

    The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
    The Abduction by John Grisham
    Shadow of the Giant by Orson Scott Card
    David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
    Foundation by Isaac Asimov
    Cujo by Stephen King
    Good Omens by Gaiman and Pratchett

    The first Harry Potter, meanwhile, is an 880.

  23. I am unimpressed by the “science” of these scores — just look at Charon’s list! Harry Potter #1 is more advanced/difficult than “David Copperfield”? WTF? “Ferdinand” is the same?

    Re: home schoolers being them what don’t want none o’ that librul stuff — considering Baen’s being noted for so much ‘MURICA F YEAH with the high capacity weaponry being wielded by flag-waving God-fearing SWM right-wingers, maybe so? ¯\_(?)_/¯

    Just please don’t anyone use them as examples of good cover design or proofreading.

  24. @Lurkertype

    I was unimpressed with the scores when I looked at them ages ago.
    The Hobbit (at 1000) is nearly 200 points more difficult than The Two Towers (810). The Jungle Book is 1140 but And Then There Were None is 540. The Songs Of Distant Earth is 1420, On The Beach is 780. The Lion, Witch And The Wardrobe has a score of 940. The Magician’s Nephew has a score of 790.

    Not sure I could pull anything useful out of those scores.

  25. @Mike: And here I thought everybody in Texas agreed that once you start fencing the range things go to hell. Only because the range wasn’t paid for, maybe; demanding more quantified results from education in return for taxpayer money plays well in too many states, regardless of whether those results correlate to job skills. (Let’s not talk about who would rather students not learn critical thinking.)

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