Matching Students to Text

Adapted from Matching Students to Text: The Targeted Reader (PDF) by Jack Stenner.

Teachers share two intuitions:

  1. Texts can be ordered according to the difficulty each presents for a reader
  2. Readers can be assessed according to the success each will have with any particular text

Teachers make use of these two premises to match readers to text. Knowing a lot about text is helpful because "text matters" (Hiebert, 1999). But ordering or leveling text is only half the equation. We must also assess the level of the readers. These two activities are necessary so that the right books can be matched to the right reader at the right time. When teachers achieve this match intuitively, they are rewarded with students choosing to read more.

When texts are selected that align with all the facets of the reading process, the reader is truly "targeted." The targeted reader benefits from a caring adult (teacher, library-media specialist, parent) who takes the time to understand the reader not just in the terms of reading level, but also in the terms of interests, motivation, developmental maturity, prior knowledge, purpose for reading, and available scaffolding support. An ideal or "targeted" context for reading practice and deepening comprehension can be created when this caring adult helps a student to select appropriate reading material (Five, 1986).

The objective reality is that targeted readers comprehend a high percentage of the passages they read. The subjective reality is that they report confidence, capability, and control when reading. Finally, targeted readers choose to read, and thus read more and read better.

Targeted reading is self-reinforcing, pleasurable, and productive. Poorly targeted reading can be discouraging, or worse — it can produce frustrated students who do not choose to read or like to read.

The best teachers are gifted diagnosticians who seem to have a second sight about the next chapter or book a student should read. They build upon strengths with just the right mix of success and failure, soaring and stumbling, clarity and confusion. As a learner, a student should feel centered and on target. However, it can take decades for teachers to polish intuition, to learn a 200-book classroom text collection from the lowest-level book to the highest, and to refine field-based techniques for leveling readers. And because the product of these thousands of hours of professional practice is a private, non-exchangeable metric for simultaneously ordering books and assessing readers, the profession at large does not advance.

The Lexile Framework® for Reading
The Lexile Framework for Reading is a system for measuring texts and readers by the same metric (a Lexile). When a reader's Lexile measure and a book's Lexile measure are both known, a forecast can be made about the success that the reader will have with that book. Over 40,000 books and 40 million articles now have Lexile measures, and many well-known reading achievement tests have been linked to the Lexile Framework. In addition, the Lexile Framework is used in states and districts throughout the nation. Such links make it possible for the users of these tests to request equivalent Lexile measures for any specific score. Today, more than 14 million students get at least one Lexile measure each year from a standardized test report. Educators, librarians, and parents can use a student's Lexile measure to search the Lexile Web site ( and build a customized, targeted reading list for the reader.

Former Assistant Superintendent of Schools in North Carolina, Dr. Suzanne Triplett, states:

The Lexile Framework manifests what good teachers try to do anyway, which is to judge where a student is and find material that will challenge him adequately without being so difficult that he loses his motivation. The problem is that as children get into the latter stages of elementary school, the variance in texts and among students increases dramatically. The choice of material expands and the range of reading skills widens, so it becomes much harder for teachers to make accurate judgments about where children are and what materials are good choices for them. By using the Lexile Framework, schools can take the guesswork out of this equation and operationalize the selection of developmentally appropriate material for their students.

"Empowerment" has become a hackneyed word, but thats the key advantage of the Lexile Framework — it gives students, parents, teachers, and administrators accurate information that empowers them. With a Lexile measure, you know precisely where a student stands in terms of an absolute scale of reading comprehension, and you know exactly what steps that student needs to take to achieve higher levels of reading performance.

The Lexile Framework is a tool that can be combined with other tools, techniques, and strategies to optimize instruction. The Lexile Framework offers an open standard and a public, exchangeable metric for measuring text and readers.


Five, C.L. "Fifth graders respond to a changed reading program." Harvard Educational Review, 56 (1986): 395-405.

Hiebert, Elfrieda, H. "Text Matters in Learning to Read." CIERA Report, no. 1-001
(November 1998).