Kids Don’t Read Beverly Cleary

bookI’m sorry to tell you a harsh truth: kids don’t read Beverly Cleary books.  Not like they used to, that’s for sure.

The Ramona & Beezus movie was wonderful, but the box office take was disappointing.  (I think it will have a long life as a DVD and Blu-Ray.)  All my students who saw the movie absolutely loved it, but none of them had read the books beforehand.

Kids don’t read Beverly Cleary!  Why?

You and I loved her books as children, but they’re a little old now.  Some elements are dated, particularly the books about Henry Huggins and the early Ramona books.

The main reason kids don’t read Beverly Cleary has to do with AR (Accelerated Reader).  Beverly Cleary’s books are written at a high reading level, according to AR.  (The formula is based on length of sentences, length of words, etc.  I’m not sure about the details because I think it’s top secret.)

For example, Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is clearly written for a third-grade audience.  The book’s reading level is 5.6.   Most kids are not allowed to read above their AR reading level, so they can’t read the Beverly Cleary books when they are at the age the books are aimed for.  By the time kids reach the fifth and sixth grade reading levels, they want to move on to harder and more macho books, like Percy Jackson or Harry Potter.

I think it’s too bad.  Beverly Cleary books are wonderful.  I can’t imagine life without them, actually.

On the other hand, I have to say that in my experience, when kids read above their reading level, comprehension suffers and students rarely actually finish the book.  They just lug it around to look impressive.

Obviously, as a future writer and teacher, I was an advanced reader as a kid.  However, many of my classmates also read Beverly Cleary books.  I have to wonder if more of today’s students would read the books should AR downgrade the reading level.

As a teacher or parent, I hope you will read Beverly Cleary books aloud and recommend them to students who are ready for them.  If you teach fifth and sixth graders, try to push them into Beverly Cleary books.  You know they’ll like them!  You can also recommend the books Beverly Cleary wrote for teens.  My favorite is The Luckiest Girl, but I also loved Fifteen and Sister of the Bride.

A sampling of Beverly Cleary AR reading levels:  (This isn’t all her books.  There are soooo many!)

Ramona Quimby, Age 8: 5.6
Ramona Forever: 4.8
Beezus and Ramona: 4.8
Ramona and Her Father: 5.2
Ramona and Her Mother: 4.8
Ramona’s World: 4.8
Ellen Tebbits: 4.9
Henry Huggins: 4.7
Henry and the Clubhouse: 5.1
Mitch and Amy: 6.2
Emily’s Runaway Imagination: 6.1
A Girl from Yamhill (Beverly Cleary’s Autobiography): 6.5
Fifteen: 5.4
The Luckiest Girl: 5.9

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Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR),Book Lists,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Nov 21, 2010


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