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Flesch- Kincaid Reading Level Question for Chapter Book

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Hello everyone! :dancer
 I am a new member of SCBWI and I have recently finished my first chapter book. It has been edited and revised about 6 times and frankly I am to the point where I think it is the best quality it can be without royally messing it up. I am happy with the word count being 7,394 and I have started writing out query letters. However, I am hesitant about sending queries to agents yet due to my Flesch-Kincaid grade level score coming up as a 5.3. (The Flesch Reading Ease level is 78.1.) So, my question is whether that is too high of a reading level for a chapter book? I have done research and it seems the typically advice is to try and keep it between 1.0-3.0.

I really feel it is where I want it to be at so I am very hesitant about trying to lower the score.

Should I try and revise it yet again to read at a lower level or just go for it? :big help

Thanks,
Rebecca

#1 - February 12, 2014, 11:33 AM

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Also, I will be attending the NYC conference! Very excited for my first conference! :yay
#2 - February 12, 2014, 11:37 AM

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Hi Rebecca,


Another tool you can use is Renaissance Learning's text analyzer. It's free. You just copy and paste your text into a box, and it analyzes it for you.


http://www.renlearn.com/atos/Analyze.aspx?type=1&lang=english


That might give you another perspective as to your book's leveling.


As to whether you should lower your reading level, that's a tricky one. What age are your characters? What activities do they do? There are different levels of chapter books, too. What are some comparison texts--Magic Tree House, Henry and Mudge? What are their word counts? Are your characters only a couple years older than your intended readers?


Lots to consider!


Jody

#3 - February 13, 2014, 04:36 AM
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Rebecca, I echo Jody's suggestions. Something I do with my hi-lo manuscripts is to look at every word with three (and sometimes two) or more syllables. There are often single-syllable words that work just as well. Also, try breaking long compound sentences (sentences with and, or, so, then, because, etc.) into two or more sentences. If it feels choppy, see if you can reword the sentences so they're more flowing. Contractions also increase reading level scores, so try to avoid them if you can. Oh, and always remember to use one-syllable character names!

Good luck!
#4 - February 13, 2014, 06:09 AM
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Rebecca,


I'll chime in from a parent's point of view. I think the chapter book market breaks out into "early chapter books" and then "chapter books." MAGIC TREEHOUSE is pretty low on the readability scale (around 2.0 on ATOS). But there are other books that move into the 3.0s and 4.0s (STINK, MY WEIRD SCHOOL, CLEMENTINE). Also it seems that some series escalate.


As a writer for the educational market, I mostly use ATOS rather than Flesch Kincaid. http://www.renlearn.com/atos/


You might run some passages through that and see where your text falls on the scale and see if it matches the interest level of your book (K-3 versus 5-8, for example).


Good luck!


Kirsten
#5 - February 13, 2014, 06:16 AM
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I think Lexile scores are also useful in conjunction with the other sources mentioned. You can get a free account: http://www.lexile.com/

Good luck, Vijaya
#6 - February 13, 2014, 08:07 AM
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Thank you all for wonderful advice! I want to respond to each reply because all were very helpful!

Jody- Kirsten suggested same tool which was much easier to use than running a Flesch-Kincaid so I will be using that from now on. However, it came back with a 5.3 still so I think I'm going to be stuck with that unless I make some changes.
    Also, you gave me a lot to think about with the content. The characters are animals and it is an adventure series. The MC is faced with a dilemma and is morally driven to fix the problem and has to confront the villain character. Now thinking about it, the MC would probably relate more to a pre-teen daydreaming about adventures. The MC's younger sister is around 7 in "human years". (I'm currently writing the second one where the MC has to rescue her.) I was planning on keeping them all on the same level too. Word count is 7,394 for the complete first book. Also, the characters I feel fall in the same category as Frog and Toad series or a chapter book version of Guardians of Ga-Hoole.

Mhiggins- I like your suggestion of going back through the manuscript and breaking down anything too complex. I actually started looking back over it yesterday and there were quite a few words 3 syllables and compound sentences. Also, there are quite a few contractions I can break down. All pretty easy changes to make!

Kirsten- Glad to here from a parent's point of view! I am hoping that parents will enjoy the series as well as children. Jody recommended the ATOS as well and unfortunately the score came back as a 5.3. (However, so happy to have an easier tool to use than running Flesch-Kincaid!) Also, it may not be so unfortunate and I am realizing that my book may interest children a little older more. Mhiggins also had wonderful suggestions of ways to easily lower the score. Decisions... decisions!

Vijaya- Definitely will check out Lexile! Thank you! :)


Thanks again to everyone for your advice! Lots to think about!

   
#7 - February 13, 2014, 08:34 AM

For that word count, it does seem a little bit high to me, but not necessarily too much.


You can search for similar books and see word counts and reading levels here: http://www.renaissance.com/store/quiz_home.asp?c=1


The Ivy and Bean chapter books are about 8-9000 words, and those are around third grade level. But then the Harriet Bean chapter books are upper fourth and lower 5th grade reading levels.


I would compare and contrast to books which are most similar to yours. [size=78%]Also, you might want to think about what's bringing it up higher. Are your sentences longer than what you'd normally find in a similar book, for example?[/size]


But if you think it's polished and you have a strong hook, strong voice, and a great character, then I wouldn't sweat it too much at this stage. If an agent/editor likes it, they can work with you on bringing the level down if need be.


Just my opinion. I'm not an expert on chapter books, though I have been researching them lately.
#8 - February 13, 2014, 08:56 AM
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Rebecca,


Hang in there. Keep researching and writing.


Jody
#9 - February 13, 2014, 05:42 PM
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I agree with Diana. I write early chapter books, but I know nothing about leveling. My editor tells me if a word or concept is a bit tricky when we're in the editing stage and then when we're all done with the words AND pictures (they won't level without the pictures since the pictures help decode) the whole book gets sent out for independent leveling. It could work differently for more advanced chapter books that don't rely as much on the illustrations.
#10 - February 13, 2014, 11:07 PM
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Are you attending a critique session at the conference? If so, wait to make changes. It's not as simple as changing to shorter words and breaking up contractions. Most contractions are taught in the first grade. Removing them makes your tone sound more formal. Some three or even five syllable words are perfectly appropriate for young readers. They know their dinosaur names, for example, especially with the pictures.

Read books on the level you hope to be read at. Get as many critiques as you can - including posting to the critique section here.

It could be that you need to bring the book up to middle grade not take the level down to chapter book. The main character is old for a chapter book. Of course, if the younger sister were the main character, that could work.

It's hard for us to judge any of this without seeing a portion of the story.
#11 - February 17, 2014, 10:26 AM

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I've written (and published) a lot of chapter books, and I always make sure most of the sentences are short and most of the vocab is easy. It's not that hard to split complex sentences into shorter ones and to use words that young children are familiar with. With your word count, age of characters, and animal characters, it sounds like you have all the ingredients for a good chapter book. You just need to make it easier for kids to read. Good luck.
#12 - February 18, 2014, 09:35 AM
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Thank you everyone for all of your great responses! After going back to it to make changes, I decided to wait until after the conference at least. Unfortunately, I am not making it to the critique sessions but maybe the experience will enlighten me of the direction I want to go with it.
      Also, it is great to hear from published authors that agents are more than willing to help with all that! I feel I have finally written the perfect query letter for the book as well so that is one less hurdle.

 :dancer Safe travels to the conference everyone!
#13 - February 18, 2014, 10:56 AM

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A really wonderful book is Alijandra Moligner's Word Book. It has excellent examples for different levels of reading as well as a dictionary that gives synonyms by grade level. When I first began writing easy-readers, I found it very challenging. But I got a *feel* for it by reading a lot of books. As others have pointed out, you need simple words and short sentences and a great story! You certainly do not need to do any fancy leveling. Good luck, Vijaya
#14 - February 18, 2014, 11:00 AM
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Learning a lot by stalking this discussion and am totally bookmarking the leveling links.  :thanks
#15 - February 24, 2014, 06:07 PM
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I just ordered Moligner's Word Book. Thank you for the tip!
#16 - February 24, 2014, 08:35 PM
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