Writing and reading...and recipe-ing

Christy and I have been having a great (email) discussion about reading books that have been published for the age groups we write for. Some of you posted this weekend that you're doing just that - reading. Yay to books!!

So, this ties into a story about my son and how we decide what he might like to read. It's his birthday today, btw - he's officially hit the double digits. The big 1-0. Ten. *sigh*

In fourth grade, our school district offers gifted-and-talented programming and I'm lucky enough to have a son who not only makes friends easily, is kind to others (except, occasionally, his little brother, but hey, he never claimed to be a saint), and plays four sports a year, but is also pretty gifted at reading and spelling. Can you tell I'm proud??? You might remember him from his blogfest post back in December.

Anyway, the school tested each 4th grader and sent home information on their lexile score. At the risk of embarrassing my son for life, I'm posting his here as an example of how to find books for a certain age group and how this can help you as a writer/reader. Stay with me, please (yes, there's a chance to participate at the end and it has nothing to do with this post. you know you want to.)

Zach's score, as a 4th grader, was a 793. If you don't know what a lexile score is, check out the website at http://www.lexile.com/ (it's okay, I didn't know either - I'm an early childhood teacher) Basically, they break down the score by grade level. So Zach's in 4th grade, but he reads as an average (50th percentile) 7th grade, 9th month student.

How does this help you? Well, say, you want to write a book that a fourth grade boy will read. Take Zach's lexile number and give it a range. Say 700 to 850, to account for differing levels, etc. Then enter it into the website and see what suggestions they give you (this is what I did when I bought him a new series for his birthday). Narrow by genre if you want to. And voila - a reading list. In fact, you don't have to do it for Zach (because I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who does). You can enter grade levels and find books. They might surprise you. OR perhaps you're looking for someone who reads at a fourth grade level, no matter what their age. Then look for a range of 400-500. Cool, huh? Barnes and Noble is also nice enough to put lexile numbers right on their website in most book descriptions. Find out more here.

Basically - if you're struggling with either "dumbing down" or "talking up" your characters thoughts and dialogues, this is a must-do. Find out what your target age group is reading and what they can/should read. And then read, read, read. You can not skip this part. Ever.

Oh, and this is a Mealtime Madness Monday, but I'm too busy making baked chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and peas - along with birthday cake - to post a recipe. SO HERE'S THE GOOD PART OF THIS POST (besides all the other good things, of course):

erica and christy NEED YOUR HELP!!!!!!!

Please, please, please help us post recipes for Mondays in March. Email us your favorites at lynnea.west(at)gmail(dot)com. If you're chosen, we will feature your blog along with your recipe on one of our Monday posts!! Yay for exposure and yay for our blogging friends! We hope to see you and your yummy dishes soon!

Oh, and what are you reading today and how did you choose it? I'm reading Paper Towns by John Green. It is AMAZING. I picked it because Gae Polisner said that someone who read her ARC for The Pull of Gravity compared it to that book. It is AMAZING (did I say that?).


  1. Happy Birthday to your son. Yes, those reading ages used to get between me and my wits when teaching!

  2. Oh goodness, we are in a similar situation! My son just turned 9 this weekend and reads at a pretty advanced level. I was interested to read everything in your post - it's valuable not just as a parent but as a writer as well. My problem is struggling with finding materials that suit his reading level and challenge him/keep his interest but that have acceptable content for a 9 year old. *sigh* But it sure is fun doing all of the book shopping:)

  3. ergh, I don't cook, so I'm recipe-less. Sorry. :o\ But both of my daughters are in gifted, too! And they get those scores. I mostly just like the extra enrichment they get at school... Currently reading Sarah's Key for book club. I... like it? :D <3

  4. Happy Birthday Zach!
    You made me think about my son's favorite birthday meal, and his favorite birthday cake—I'll be sending you the recipe for the cake. It's so simple and sooo delicious. I'd forgotten about it (he's all grown up now, but I do remember ten—great age!)
    Love the lexile number idea. I didn't know it existed.

  5. Happy Birthday, Zach!

    You have every right to be proud of you son, Erica.

    Very interesting post today and something all m/g and y/a writers should know about.

    I will send you some fantastic recipe. Remember my significant other is a gourmet chef.


  6. Great post! As a teacher, writer, and mama I found it to be very interesting. My little guy will take his first set of standardized tests this year-SAT 10. Now, I can't wait to find out his lexile score.

  7. That is very cool! Never knew something like it existed. Good luck with recipes. Would help if I cooked!

  8. Thanks Erica and Christy for the great post. It was informative. Happy birthday to your gifted son. I'll have to think about if I have any great recipes to send you. I love to cook but I'm not a gourmet chef like Michael's significant other. I can't wait to see if any of those get posted. Sounds good.

  9. So your boy is ten. Happy Birthday to him. I really feel like a grandpa now!

  10. Happy Birthday to your son...hope he has a great day! WIth all that cooking going on, he just has to :D

    I'm reading Graham Greene, and yesterday posted a bit about it on my Monday Reads post...

  11. Happy birthday to your son! 10 is a great year!!! I'm a teacher too - but I've never heard of the lexile scoring system - good to know! :)

    If your son hasn't read them yet, I bet he'd love the Percy Jackson series!

  12. Happy Birthday, Zach!

    Thanks for the lexile numbers info - very helpful. My 2nd grader reads above his grade level, too, and it's always fun to find him new books.

    I loved Paper Towns. I'm currently reading both Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, and Life, After by Sarah Darer Littman. I don't usually read two YA novels at once, but I went away for the weekend and brought something new so I wouldn't finish the first and then have nothing to read.

    Good luck with the recipe collecting!

  13. Cool, good to know! I didn't know about the reading levels. I'll send you guys a recipe!

  14. fellow crusader and new follower. Nice to meet you.

  15. I just finished Paper Towns! Liked it quite a bit. I love this tool for reading levels. I work at a bookstore and people come in asking for this kind of thing all the time. I can't get to it at work, but I can give them an idea if they're really wanting a help like this (some of them don't trust us ... imagine that :P)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog :) Glad I followed you back!

  16. Happy birthday to your son! I am currently reading The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney. I chose it because the plot sounded really interesting~dark fairies, yeah!~and I'm online friends with Karen so I was dying to read it. I'm glad I picked it up because so far it's really good! Now I'm off to email you a recipie!

  17. SO good to know... I wish they'd had this when I was a kid. My mum had to send a note to my school every year that I was allowed to check out whatever book I wanted from the library & they were not to discourage me from getting big books. A reading-level tool would have been helpful.

    Recipes... hmmm... do you like soup?


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