Hide and go tweak

Hi everyone,

Yesterday another of the books in progress came home to be tweaked, right on time, assuring that next week will be more of this week — head down and doing it. In this case, the editor applied the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Levels screen to determine if my poems and texts fall within the grade target ranges. Only one of my poems fell outside of the range but half a dozen of the 500-word texts measured “too high,” on the scale, mostly because some sentences were too long. I’m sure I’ll agree with many of the findings, but maybe not all. Teaching reading is part science and part art. If a sentence beyond a certain length bores the reader and threatens to hinder the learning process, science can test, graph, explain, and set parameters to guard against that happening. If a sentence of the same length interests the young reader and keeps him/her involved, that’s art at work. If hard (= unfamiliar) words become stumbling blocks that detract from the pleasure of reading, science can pick up on such problems and place them in a more appropriate age. If the same words are explained so naturally in the text that readers intuit their meaning without missing a beat, that’s part of the art of teaching.

E. B. White got his readers off to a jump start in Charlotte’s Web with his famous 6-word first sentence, “Where’s Papa going with that ax?”

In The Wind in the Willows, though, Kenneth Grahame used 15 words in his first sentence and then launched a whopping 46-worder to follow.The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms.The third sentence took another 21 words.

The art of teaching children how to read and love the experience, involves a good balance of what we say and how we say it.