What does Lexile mean to you and your child?

Lexile and You

Does it seem like you are always hearing that word?  Your child is below his or her Lexile?  They need to be at a 540 or at a 1080?  What exactly is a Lexile and how can you make it work for you?

Lexile is a reading meta-matrix that actually takes reading material and assigns it "value".  The "value" is referred to as its Lexile score or simply as its Lexile.  It is simply a numerical device for charting reading material.  As with all reading values, there are anticipated levels each student will reach at each grade.  You will hear them referred to as benchmarks.  They also have other names and phrases teachers use, though.  Perhaps you have heard expressions like 'just right books', or 'on level', or 'on grade level'.  These are all used to refer to books meeting Lexile expectations.  Not all books are created equal in the Lexile system.  Higher value is awarded to non-fiction, to books that require reader stamina (longer books) and books that deal with portions of history considered culturally relevant.  You will see these things reflected in the scores of the books themselves. 

How do you know what a book is worth? 

Thankfully, the Lexile site is very parent friendly. offers valuable insight to how the system works, what the expectations are and how you can use these expectations to help your reader advance.
What if your reader doesn't like books?  Not a problem.  If your child is like mine, and truly enjoys National Geographic, do not discourage this reading.  All reading is good reading.  To determine the Lexile of the material they are reading, simply type in an excerpt into the analyzer on the site itself.

What are the expectations?

  • Grade                               300L
  • Grade 2                            140L to 500L
  • Grade 3                            30L to 700L
  • Grade 4                            445L to 810L
  • Grade 5                            565L to 910L
  • Grade 6                            665L to 1000L
  • Grade 7                            735L to 1065L
  • Grade 8                            805L to 1100L
  • Grade 9                            855L to 1165L
  • Grade 10                          905L to 1195L
  • Grade 11 and 12               940L to 1210L

Does it matter if my child is meeting their grade level Lexile expectations?

Yes, to a degree it does.  Lexile measures word frequency and sentence length.  Note that it does not measure complexity and structure.  This system has some flaws as a result of this matrix.  Eragon by Christopher Paolini, by all accounts a YA Fantasy novel has a Lexile of 1050.  The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner, considered by most to be the most complex American Literature ever written to date is 870L.  College doctoral theses are written on The Sound and the Fury.  Faulkner is the master of the simple complex sentence.  Read page one and find yourself flabbergasted.  This does not, however, detract from the system overall.  It is meant to encourage stamina, which is a trait required not just for successful testing, but for fluency and comprehension. The Black Pearl by Scott O'Dell should be well within comprehension range by 9th grade and The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck by graduation for true college advancement and success, as college materials are at the 1530L range (as the The Good Earth is).

How can we get where we need to be?

Thankfully, Lexile offers helpful tools on their site for parents to try.  Moreover, and certainly more importantly, parents need to encourage reading in whatever format they feel their students will engage.  Failing that, enlist the help of a reading expert, who will help you get where you need to be.



Heather E.

Building better readers one syllable at a time!

20+ hours
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