Lexile levels are a way of examining individual texts for language complexity. A text that has a higher Lexile level, say, One Hundred Years of Solitude, has more complex language than The Cat in the Hat. Lexile takes into account the individual complexity of the words used in a text, not so much focusing on textual features or figurative language, which is where it tends to fall short. It only takes into account prose as a framework for reading, without considering poetry or books of that type.
For example, Locomotion, the book I’m reading with my reading group at work, is not rated at all on Lexile. It is given an NP rating, or “Non-Prose,” to denote that it isn’t available for an actual rating because of its style. It’s a shame that Lexile doesn’t take into account poetry more often, as I think it would deepen the potential for using Lexile to teach poetry.
Solitude has a Lexile level of about 1410, which is at a college reading level. Meanwhile, middle school students are expected to be able to read books between a 900-1100 Lexile level, denoting that they shouldn’t have trouble reading the book or won’t run into any words that completely obstruct the meaning of the text. The reason I mention this is because, coming up soon, middle school students will be taking the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium), and the test uses Lexile levels to monitor where students’ reading levels are. Students are given a template text at a standard, middle school level, and then depending on how well they answer comprehension questions associated with the text, they are given either a harder or easier text.
Lexile is interesting to me because it quantifies what “complexity” means in terms of reading. It actually gives a definition to it, rather than just baselessly saying that a text is “harder” than another. It provides a scientific framework.