World Book Day is a component of CMS’ larger reading initiative.
“Our initiative is to have books in every classroom, in every subject,” Farlow said. “Hopefully, they will have a book they can steal a couple of minutes to read.”
Hundreds of middle school students exited the auditorium with a shiny new book in hand. Tables were decorated around the room with bright table clothes. Stacks of books rested on each. Every book cover had a number written across the front.
The numbers were the books’ Lexile measure. According to Lexile’s website, books and texts receive a Lexile text measure from a software tool called the Lexile Analyzer. The analyzer gives each book a number based on its degree of difficulty.
Cleveland Middle students take the Lexile reader measure three times a year. Each student arrived to World Book Day with their score firmly in hand. They were instructed to pick a book within a hundred points of their score.
Farlow said Lexile measures can be a little deceiving.
“Lexile is based basically on the length of sentences and how the sentences are structured. If there are a lot of commas and semicolons, that is a lot of comprehension in one sentence,” Farlow said. “If you have made up words in fantasy, then that is going to be harder for kids who are struggling with comprehension.”
Continued Farlow, “It is vocabulary, it is sentence structure and it is a little deceiving. It could be a skinny book, but look at how it is written.”
Most students chose to visit the orange table first. They placed their names in the jar for the chance to win one of two books. Classes then spent about five to 10 minutes perusing the tables’ offerings.
Parent volunteers Cindy Baker and Susan Finnell described the young students as being very excited.
“I think the kids are really excited. They seem really happy to get the books,” Baker said. “They get to take their books home with them and bring them back when they are finished. What do you do when you’re done? You and your friends might swap books. It is reading for fun.”
Finnell said she is excited to see students so interested in books.
“Mrs. Farlow has me excited about it because I love to read and my children love to read,” Finnell said. “To put another book in their hands is great.”
“A lot of these kids can’t seem to believe they get to take these books home.”
After selections were made, students filled out a card with information on themselves and the book. These cards were then handed to Finnell and Baker. The books are to be left in each homeroom teacher’s room to be shared year after year.
Farlow said two books came with each English textbook purchase. A total of 1,100 textbooks meant 2,200 books to be spread throughout the school.
“Instead of teachers deciding what books they would have in their personal libraries, we decided to have the kids choose the books and give a synopsis of each,” Farlow said. “This way the seventh-grade teachers will have books picked out by seventh-graders.”
Farlow said she would like to find a way to give free books to the students.
“I would very much like to say, ‘Choose a book and its yours,’ but since these were purchased with Cleveland City School funds, I couldn’t just let them take the books home,” Farlow said. “However, they can have access to them this way.”
The reading initiative at CMS began in January.
Farlow said the program is off to a “gentle start.” Tuesday’s World Book Day was the first big reading event of this year. She hinted the initiative would gradually come to play a larger role at the middle school.
“Reading is what drives. The teachers, and not just the English teachers, have books in their classrooms. We are a community of readers, and that is what this initiative is about,” Farlow said. “Will we see scores go up? I hope so, but we are going to create a love of reading.”
Posters across the school read, “[Teacher’s name] is reading [picture of book] and just finished reading [picture of book.]”
Farlow praised the reading assistants, teachers and faculty for their efforts to jump on board.
“The reading assistants have just been working like crazy. I love this school and I love this community,” Farlow said. “If there is a play, then we are all working on the play. If there is a ballgame, then we are all attending.”
More information on Cleveland Middle’s reading initiative can be found at www.ireadcms.com. Additional information on Lexile can be found at www.Lexile.com.