by Anna Cavallo
A while back, my colleague Carol Hinz wrote a post demystifying reading level–the evaluation tools we use, some tricks of the trade, and more. As another Lerner editor compelled to ponder/study/grapple with reading level with a significant portion of my time, I realized I could add one more favorite tool to the toolbox.
The Children’s Writer’s Word Book is one of the most commonly sought-out resources in our Editorial department’s little library, as far as I can tell (and I’m comparing it to the encyclopedias, Webster’s Biographical and Geographical Dictionaries, and atlases rather than the majority of the obscure nonfiction/reference books that also inhabit the shelves). And when I know I need to focus on reading level in an edit, it’s one of the first resources I consult. Its thesaurus, making up the bulk of the book, takes only slightly more time to reference than my mental thesaurus (sometimes less, depending on the day…) and is ever so much more informed. For each entry it includes the reading level of the given word, as well as several alternatives that are usually at a variety of reading levels–the level listed with each alternative, of course. This big cheat-sheet of a reference book also includes lists of reading-level-specific words, in case that suits your task better.
Not only do we editors employ (*cough* use) this exquisite (er, fine) resource; we love it when our authors do too! So yes, I’m taking this moment to promote another publisher’s book–but all in the hopes that you’ll find it as helpful as I do in creating accessible, engaging texts for young readers.