Is there a list of required reading texts or books for the Common Core State Standards?
No. There are Exemplar Texts, which are examples of texts, but they are simply examples.
But I keep hearing that there are lists.
Yes, you’ll hear that. Many vendors are putting together lists of exemplar books as a convenience for you, if you choose to use them; and each vendor will have a slightly different list. But the texts mentioned in the Common Core Standards are not required, unless your particular school board or administrator makes them mandatory. The books listed in the CCSS are “exemplar texts,” or examples of good choices of books.
Can I use books that I have already been using?
Quite probably. The CCSS provides three criteria for deciding on which texts are appropriate for a grade level or learning task: quantatitive, qualitative and reader & task. Notice: each criteria is equally weighted. A one-page, at-a-glance summary of the criteria is available free when you sign up for the CommonCoreStandards.com newsletter.
I thought the Lexile score was the most important element in choosing a text?
No, quantitative, qualitative and reader& task criteria each receive equal weight.
The Lexile score is the preferred measure of reading level under the CCSS. The standards also emphasize the need to give students more complex reading material, which means rethinking how we use the reading levels. However, the CCSS already realigned the reading scores for you. Merely use their recommended Lexile ranges for grade levels and you’ll be fine.
Notice that these new Lexile scores will push some texts toward lower grades. However, some texts may be pushed higher or lower by the other considerations. For example, The Grapes of Wrath receives a 2-3rd grade reading level on the Lexile scores, but the qualitative and reader & task considerations place it at a high school level.
Qualitative considerations? What’s that?
Appendix A of the Common Core Standards lists the qualitative considerations. For a one-page, at-a-glance tool, use the CommonCoreStandards.com tool for evaluating texts. You’ll need to consider text structure, levels of meaning or purpose, language conventions and clarity, and knowledge demands.
Reader & Task considerations? What’s that?
Appendix A lists the qualitative considerations. For a one-page, at-a-glance tool, use the CommonCoreStandards.com tool for evaluating texts. You should consider whether the reader has high or low interest, whether the reader needs support or scaffolding, whether this is an easy text or a stretch text and whether the task demands an easy or complex text.
This also takes into consideration the purpose of choosing this text. For example, My Name is Sangoel is a story about an African immigrant. When he begins his new school, he insists that others say his name correctly and that he will not take an American name. You could use this on the first day of kindergarten to introduce students and emphasize the importance of using someone’s name correctly; or you read it during a social studies class about Africa or immigration. The reading level and qualitative factors haven’t changed; but the student’s required task has changed drastically and this overrides other factors letting you read it to a kindergarten class for one purpose, but a fifth grade class for a different purpose.
Are you saying that I can choose texts myself?
Of course. Teachers, please have confidence in your choices! Don’t let the CCSS intimidate you or make you question your judgment. You know how to choose texts that work for your students and your subject matter. Overall, you should make two adjustments: more non-fiction and push the complexity levels. But basically, you know how to choose texts. Don’t blindly follow a published list of CCSS “approved books.” No such list exists. Instead, the CCSS merely recommends texts that are exemplar. Use their recommendations when you want, but make alternate choices when you want.
Or, to cite the source:
“Such assessments are best made by the teachers employing their professional judgment, experience, and knowledge of their students and the subject.”
Common Core State Standards for English, Appendix A, p. 4
But–I’m not sure I have confidence in my abilities to choose texts for the CCSS.
What you need is a tool that allows you to evaluate a particular text according the CCSS criteria. That’s what our one-page Evaluation Tool does. It puts the decision process into a simple-to-use format. You decide on a text you want to use; you use the Tool to evaluate the book/text according to the CCSS criteria. Later, if there’s any question about the book, you can easily justify its use with this Tool.
Can a book be used at more than one grade level?
Absolutely. Many books are complex enough to be use for different purposes. You may evaluate a text differently depending on the required tasks. As an example, a picture book biography of Abraham Lincoln could be used in a K-2 classroom just as a great story; but social studies teachers in 4-6 may use the text to introduce this President. The text would be considered more complex for the older grades because the qualitative measures would require more knowledge of content and culture and the reader & task requirements are different.
Does my lesson plan make a difference?
Yes. Any particular text might be used in a variety of content units and grade levels. Your lesson plan will determine if a text is appropriate or not under the Reader & Task criteria.
Is there a place for easy, simple texts?
Absolutely. Some tasks will demand simplicity. Sometimes, students need to read for fun.
But I want to use the list of exemplar text given in the CCSS. Can I still do that?
Yes, it’s an option. But you also have flexibility to choose your own texts if you want.
Wait. If each teacher chooses his/her own reading list, then what happened to the “common” part of the standards?
The goal of the Common Core State Standards is to produce a high school graduate who is ready for college and/or a career. The CCSS lays out standards for the end product, the high school graduate. But it cannot, nor will it ever be feasible for every classroom of first graders across the nation to read the exact same books. We have a common goal: a high school graduate who can compete in the world’s work force or is college-ready. Getting there can be and will be accomplished through a variety of texts.
Do students ever read for fun under the CCSS?
It’s never mentioned in the CCSS. Reading for pleasure, writing humor or compelling fiction–these tasks never appear in the standards. However, educators know the importance of providing fun reading. Balance the need for more stringent complexity and a student’s sense of fun.