Is E for Easy?

Today many of my SC library friends engaged in a healthy discussion about the books that have mostly pictures, are roughly 32 pages (give or take), and have been maligned by teachers as “easy.”

The conversation began with an innocent question:

If you are in an Intermediate school, 4th and 5th grade, do you have an Easy Book section with E on the spine?

Here are the takeaways from this crowd sourced “wonder.”

  • I had an E section but it was called Everybody Books.
  • We have a E “Everybody” section.  Many of these books are good read-alouds that support standards, especially science and social studies.
  • We call them “Everybody” books because they aren’t all that easy to read.  There are several picture books in our “E” section that have lexiles in the upper hundreds. I hate to call them “Easy” because they aren’t all that easy to read.  We call them “Everybody” because if you can’t read the words, you can enjoy the pictures.  Therefore “Everybody” can enjoy those books.
  • I use E for Everybody books  – if I were starting new, I would use P for picture. Picture books are NOT easy books – some of them are on 4th, 5th, 6th grade levels!
  • Very well stated! I totally agree with what you’ve said and that is how I promote my “E” section – easy is not part of the vocab here. And for what it’s worth, I despise the term “Chapter books”.  Makes me want to scream.  Why teachers use this when sending the kids to the Learning Commons is beyond my imagination.

Found on flickrcc.net

All of these are fantastic support from some great SC voices. As a high school librarian, I want to add my support for these books as well. These books are a GREAT way to introduce a topic in any classroom or content area. They can be the perfect segue from topic to topic or activity to activity in any classroom. These books also tap into the inner creative side for some, and we all know there are plenty of students who do not respond to dry text, but will respond to stories or pictures that make connections, evoke feelings, and allow for the appreciation of literature, dramatic readings, and in its purest form, the appreciation of art. Just think of the possibilities too, as you prepare for Common Core, and providing varied texts and formats of information.

Levels can be misleading
It’s funny that this came up. Years ago when Lexile became all the rage, I had a teacher friend in my school ask if I would pull some 1100 level books for her. Her daughter had to have one the next day for her English class (at a neighboring elementary school) and hadn’t had the chance to get one. So I said I’d pull some together and they could come right after school together to browse through the books pulled. Imagine her shock and indignation when in the pile of books  there were a couple of picture books. She immediately tossed them aside, saying I needed to put them back, as her daughter would be in trouble if she brought such a book in. While the fifth grade daughter selected something more appropriate to what her teacher wanted, the mother, my colleague, was amazed at the variety of books that seemed to be from a wide range–> small books to thick books, easy books to longer works and even classics. But each book met her criteria of being in the lexile range requested. I demonstrated how to use our Destiny catalog to search Lexiles, and told her she could use the catalog to narrow down choices once in the Lexile range. I wanted the Mom/Teacher to take the book and teach the teacher a thing or two about Lexiles and vague assignments. Alas, she wouldn’t do it. But you rest assured she told everybody in our middle school about her experience with Lexiles.
A favorite
There are many I find favor in.  Patricia Polacco, Chris Van Allsburg, Mo Willems, John Scieszka, and many more…these authors are found in my high school collection. And yes, many classified as Easy.
So without further adieu, here is one of my  favorites!! Actually, ANYTHING by Mark Teague.  I could list many, but I think I’ll just feature one that I have used before.

What can you address in a classroom with this book appropriate for high schoolers?
  • Different Points of View (reality vs. what we manifest in our minds)
  • Differing views through colors (Visual literacy/Art appreciation)
  • Imagination and perception
  • Letter writing  and audience
  • Newspaper article writing and audience

I’ll close with this reflection.  Just as we cannot judge books by their covers, this is a reality for levels too.  No matter the intended audience, the level may vary greatly. A book, despite a low level or lexile, might be the prefect choice for adding variety, providing choice, creating a mood, or modeling/demonstrating a concept. So don’t be dismissive of these well loved books just because they are labeled Easy..

Picture Attribution:
Morgan, John.  ”Caught Reading.” http://www.flickr.com/photos/24742305@N00/6475675533
14 November 2011.