'Find right books to keep yourself motivated
By Kim Bo-eun
Let’s say you went to the mall with your son to get him a pair of sneakers. It wouldn't be easy to choose a pair based on his age or grade at school, instead of his actual foot size.
Yet this is what happens when parents select books for their children to read.
Many parents select books that surpass their children’s reading abilities, believing a challenge is what will improve their skills.
However, what usually happens is that children become frustrated when they come across unfamiliar words and sentence structures and end up losing interest.
What would come in useful for such parents and their children would be an awareness of where the latter stand in terms of reading skills as well as books that have levels of difficulty marked on them.
Fortunately, there is actually a measure that provides precisely that.
Lexile lands in Korea
Lexile, which measures both a reader’s ability and the difficulty of a text, is a measurement system devised by MetaMetrics, a U.S.-based company and research institute.
Tim Klasson, chief operating officer, and Todd Sandvik, executive director of the firm’s global services, visited Seoul from May 23 to 24, to establish partnerships with businesses in Korea to promote and distribute the measure.
MetaMetrics has just started expanding its presence in Asia.
The company established its Asian division in Seoul earlier this year. It has a partnership with Interpark, a domestic online bookstore, which now sells books with their Lexile measurement marked on them. Another partner is Natmal, a research institute specializing in vocabulary, which developed the E-LQ measurement that evaluates reading ability with the help of MetaMetrics.
The measurement is used by more than 30 million students in all 50 states in the U.S. And some 110,000 books and 80 million texts including fiction, non-fiction, textbooks, magazines and websites have been given a Lexile measurement.
Keeping readers motivated
The Lexile measurement can be derived from a reading test or obtained through converting a score for a certified English language test such as TOEFL Junior.
A higher Lexile measurement represents a higher level of reading ability. The measurements range from “200L” for a beginner to about “1700L” for an advanced reader.
The measurement is not simply about matching texts to reading ability, though. Through the match, the measurement facilitates improvement of reading skills and overall English ability by providing just the right amount of challenge.
As for tips on how to effectively use the measurement, first, a person should check that reading ability and difficulty of text match. It would be appropriate to choose a text that ranges from about “50L” above one’s measure to “100L” below. It also helps to choose a text that is about something the person is interested in.
“What is great about the measurement is that it can show a big picture of the growth of readers’ abilities, like marking the height of a child that grows,” said Klasson. “Seeing their measurements rise gradually is a huge motivation for the young students, which encourages them to keep working.”
What he emphasized though, was the importance of continuous practice.
“Todd, who runs marathons, wasn’t able to run the whole course from the start. Being able to run the full 42-kilometer course requires steady practice, much like the process of improving one’s reading ability,” Klasson said.
One question that Korean parents and students might have is whether the measurement, which was developed based on research on native speakers, will be as effective for students learning English as a second language.
“Although we will continue research on this part, existing studies verify that the Lexile scale and technology work the same for second language learners in terms of benefits and applications,” he said.
“We see enormous potential in Korea in terms of benefitting from the measurements,” said Sandvik. “As President Obama spoke highly of the fervor for education in Korea, we believe that use of the system will be widely accepted and maximized for the growth of English skills for students in Korea,” he said.