As you may know if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, I am extremely uncomfortable with the whole idea of levels in reading, though I do believe it when teachers tell me it's necessary for their teaching. I hate the place in the world where reading meets competition, and having been on both sides of the grade level divide—that is, above and below—I can't help feeling that the whole idea of having your "reading level" named and given a representative letter is irrelevant in a way so deep and thorough that I can't ever find my way back to meaning.
And now, after all these years, we've gotten to the ages when schools regularly include that ultimate destination, than unreachable dream, level Z, in their book lists. And I thought: OK, now we get the good stuff! We get to find out what they've been keeping from us—not that we haven't been on level Z, but more that it hasn't really been included in the overall roster of books. So now that it is, it feels as though we've gotten the map to the secret world, we have the password, they open the gate, and behind it, books and books and books and…oh.
I'll admit right up front, because why not be honest about my own personal failings, that I have not read this book. I am doing that worst thing of song and story: judging a book by its cover. Oh, and its first page. And its back cover copy. But still—is this really the ultimate in kid reader ability? I know I'm getting all snobby and intolerable, but couldn't they ask a little more of these kids? Of all of us?
I know, I know: they want the books to feel relevant to kids' lives. And…I know we more or less have to trust, in this world, that everyone is doing his or her best at any one time. And heaven knows you can learn from anything you read, there's always something amazing to be gotten from it.
It's also true that they're being asked to read The Pearl, so they have their classic bases covered.
But there's something about seeing this on my coffee table that makes me so unutterably sad.