You asked about why I color code my books instead of just using the Fountas and Pinnell levels. When I first started leveling my library many years ago, I was teaching second grade and thought that using different colors would be better than using letters. It was my hope that color codes would be less obvious than actual letters. For example, if a student was reading a J, it was clearly lower than a P. However, I learned very quickly that no matter how you level your books, the students know the "order" of the levels and catch on to any system a teacher puts in place.
Still, I strongly believe that students should be reading "just right" texts. There is just too much research that shows that students who are reading too far below or above their reading levels will not make adequate progress. With that being said, it is more important for me to ensure "just right" reading than to just allow students to read whatever books they want to read with no attention to the difficulty level of the book. While I teach MANY lessons on choosing "just right" texts, my lower readers often still continue to read books that are just too challenging for them. In turn, they are not able to apply the strategies I am teaching them when reading these books independently. While I am aware of the stigma of levels, I am most concerned with my students' reading growth.
If you watch the video on my classroom library at the beginning of this post, I show how I really involve my students in determining their "just right" level. I do not simply assign students a level. They must also figure it out themselves. Making them part of the process helps them feel more in control of their reading and accepting of their "just right" level (whatever that may be).
I hope this helps answer your question!
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