AASL releases position statement on labeling books with reading levels

For Immediate Release
Tue, 09/27/2011

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CHICAGO – In response to pressure to label and arrange library collections according to reading levels, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has released a position statement on how this labeling can restrict student access to materials.   The statement can be found on the AASL website at www.ala.org/aasl/positionstatements.

The statement reflects AASL’s belief that viewpoint-neutral directional labeling increases students’ access to information and supports their First Amendment right to read.  The statement defines best practice as using a standard classification system that provides students with a consistent means of finding books and other resources not only in their school library but also in public libraries.

One concern addressed by the statement is when books are labeled with reading levels, students may look for books to read only for their impact on grades or test scores. A common belief upon which the AASL learning standards is built states that reading is a foundational skill not only for learning and personal growth, but also enjoyment.

Another concern addressed by the statement is an easily noticeable label on the book’s spine allows other students to observe the reading level of their classmates.  This threatens the confidentiality of the child’s reading ability, which should remain the knowledge of the student’s parent/guardian, teacher and school librarian. 

“School libraries provide equitable physical and intellectual access to the resources and tools required for learning in a warm, stimulating and safe environment,” explains Carl Harvey, AASL president.  “This position statement can be a resource school librarians can use to advocate against the development of district policies that require the labeling books with reading levels.”

The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library field.