Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Topic: Readability and Legibility

10-second review: Readability means “understandability.” Legibility refers to comfort level in reading: illumination, type size, spacing, etc.

Title: “Basic Reading Skills: Comprehension and Rate Skills.” Psychology in Teaching Reading. HP Smith and EV Deschant. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1961.

Comment: In addition to requiring that materials have built-in interest for all readers, some people in the field of reading feel that readability formulas must dictate whether materials are appropriate for the reading grade level of each student. If the book is too difficult, students should not read it because they will become frustrated. I have even seen reading specialists who have re-written entire chapters so that children will read materials at their reading level. As a result the students are robbed of the challenge of reading difficult material and, in the case of literature, appreciating the beauty of the language.

The typical readability formula counts words, syllables and length of line to determine the grade level of the material. I’m unaware of any judgments on readability that include difficulty in ideas. The assumption is that average number of syllables per word will demonstrate difficulty if many multi-syllable words are used. What about the poems of Emily Dickinson? The words are simple. The ideas are complex.

I think we have to recognize that materials are not always of interest to every reader, and that difficulty level in most materials fluctuates. Students need to learn what to do when the material becomes boring and what to do when the material becomes difficult

My solution to maintaining interest and dealing with difficult materials will appear in my next blogs. RayS.

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