Introducing Middle Years+
By Ruth Atkinson
The Content team is thrilled to introduce a new feature to better inform teachers and librarians using Renaissance Accelerated Reader as to whether a book is suitable for a particular reader. While we spend most of our time with our noses glued to books, we do listen to what our customers say and pay attention to your concerns. Most of all we want the AR program, of which we are justifiably proud to be as user friendly as possible. Hence the new designation of Interest Level.
Accelerated Reader (AR) users will be well aware of the three factors used to determine the suitability of a book for a child: Book Level, Points and Interest Level. The first two, Book Level and Points, correspond to the reading age and length of a book and are scientifically determined through the ATOS readability formula. What no scientific formula can assess, however, is the maturity of the text or the sophistication of the literary devices used. So in order to offer some guidance as to age group appropriateness, Interest Level became the third factor, and it contained three levels:
- Lower Years, ages 5-8
- Middle Years, ages 9-13
- Upper Years, age 14 and above.
We have always made it clear that Interest Level, which is based on the advice of a book’s publisher and professionals at Renaissance, is to be used as a guide only. Lower Years proved to be a pretty straightforward classification, as was Upper Years. Over time, however, we began to realise that because of its very breadth, bridging primary and secondary schools, the Middle Years category was really not as helpful as it should be. Those High Interest/Low Level books so highly requested by secondary schools to engage young teens with low reading levels were not always suitable to primary school children. It sometimes caused confusion because popular children’s series like Beast Quest, World of Norm or Hetty Feather carried the same Middle Years Interest Level as low level books featuring alcoholism, drug usage, gang culture etc. To keep our customers better informed the idea of Middle Years+ was born. We are now able to make that attribute go live.
So, henceforward there will be a fourth Interest Level listing, which will slot in between Middle Years and Upper Years:
- Middle Years+, age 12 and above
Quite simply, this Upper Middle Years designation categorises books more suited to secondary school pupils than to primary.
You’ll notice that some books that carried the Upper Years attribute are now designated as Middle Years+. This does not mean that we have just decided to reassign these books to a lower category. While we were waiting for the technology to introduce this Upper Middle Years category, we have been tagging any books that fit into the new category as Upper Years to limit primary schools from buying what they considered unsuitable books. These books have now simply been moved into the category that best reflects their content.
We trust that this Interest Level change will be a helpful one. Do remember though that this new designation, like the other three, is a subjective one and that the final decision as to whether the content of a specific book is appropriate for a particular student remains the responsibility of school librarians, teachers and parents.
For more information about Book Levels, watch this video.