For heavens sake just let the kid read it

Parent-teacher information night last night. I came home more than a little frustrated.

The school is introducing a new reading program to help extend children who can now read fairly independently. This is good. They have bought a whole lot of readers from Scholastic. This is good too. The books look fresh and attractive. I would have liked to have read a few of them myself. This is also good.

However, this is how the program works.

The kid does an online test on the computer to see 'what level' they read at. Then they are able to borrow a book 'at their level'. Once they've read it, they can get a new one if they pass another online comprehension test about it.

"It's to see that they can understand what they are reading," explained the teacher.

My question: "Surely if they are reading it keenly and getting through it and want the next book, they shouldn't need to do a test?"

The teacher: "Oh, you'd be surprised to see what a lot of children read without actually comprehending. (Holds up a fantastic looking book) Take this book, for example. This is the holy grail of reading for some of these kids because it's big, it's shiny and it's impressive to look at. But I want to make sure the child is at the right level before they are allowed to read it."

Another parent piped up loudly. "Yes, a case in point is my daughter. She came home from the library where they had free choice (splutters in indignation) with the Green Gables trilogy. I mean, it was three inches wide and I knew she was never going to get through it. I said to her, "Is this yours?" and she said, "Yes, isn't it a great book?" and I said, "How long are you allowed to borrow for?" and she said "two weeks" and I said, "There's no way you'll ever get through that!"


Let the kid read the book. Does it matter that they don't 'comprehend' every single thing? I read the entire Narnia series except for two, and books about Nazi concentration camps when I was eight. I didn't understand everything in them, but I understood enough to make them interesting and meaningful for me at the time. As I went on to re-read things in later years, I understood more.

If a book is 'the holy grail' of reading for a third class child, for heavens sake, let the child read the book. If my daughter brought home the Green Gables Trilogy and only had two weeks to read it, I'd buy her her own copy if she didn't get through it in time. I might even take some time to read it with her at night.

Testing, levels, comprehension.... piffle.