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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Reading Levels revisted

Sorry for pushing the reading level thing. It was a bit of a bust.

There really is no such thing as a "reading level". That's right. I know. I am in charge of assessing reading levels of all kinds of books and all kinds of kids, have done this for years and years. So what's the score?

Just this. A text or a person has reading level score on such and such a reading level assessment instrument. I am sorry to be so tedious about it, but publishing reading levels without identifying the instrument isn't worth much. A little bit of research brought me to this website where you can put in your URL and get a breakdown of the analysis, including syllables per word and words per sentence.

I tried some of the same ones I blogged about the other day and came up with grade 11 for the "genius level" posts, and grade 8 for my "junior high" post. This assessment offers a Flesch-Kincaid readability score. Therefore I was also able to assess the posts in the Flesch Kincaid reading level assessment tool in MS Word. (Scroll down this page to learn how to use FKRS in MS Word.) I found that when I put the URL of a particular post into the website mentioned above, it was rated at grade 11, but when I put the same post into a Word document and ran the FK reading level, it received a grade 12 rating. This seems to demonstrate that the sidebar does affect the reading level somewhat.

However, I then checked a few pages of the King James Bible in MS Word and Matt. 2 came out at grade 8 and Romans 3 at grade 4. Elsewhere the King James Bible is rated at grade 12. What I really want to know is what assessment is used to rate the King James at a grade 12 reading level, if I am scoring Paul at grade 4.

This is why I don't like to talk reading levels.

Here, ElShaddai links to four websites which provide reading levels for different Bible versions. However, I was unable to find the assessment instrument for the readability scores on any of the websites. One did, however, mention this,
    Not everyone will agree about the reading difficulty level of every translation. The grade levels above are offered as general guidelines, and wherever possible, are taken from information provided by the publishers of the various translations.

    In the case of some translations such as the KJV, we've gone with a generally accepted grade level or range of grade levels.


The most interesting thing about this whole exercise is how susceptible we are to suggestion. On ElShaddai's site, one commenter attributes his post grad rated blog to reading Paul in the NASB. Now think about it. His blog is rated at "post grad" (on the FK scale Grade 12) and Paul's writing in the NASB is rated on the FK scale at grade 7 for Romans 8. (This was after I carefully removed verse numbers and arranged it into paragraphs so it would not be too contaminated by versification.) And the link is?

Well, you can see that you can play with this stuff all day. I am sure there must be an explanation for this somewhere.

If anyone knows of a reading level assessment instrument that rates the King James Bible at grade 12, I would be interested. Obviously it is rating more than syllables per word and sentence length. Archaic vocabulary must play into it.

Further insight into this would be most welcome. I would like to know exactly how the reading levels of Bibles are scored since it does not seem to be the FK.


At Fri Nov 09, 05:20:00 AM, Blogger Gary Zimmerli said...

And the link is?

Suzanne, the link is that I assumed reading and studying Paul's letters with their complex sentences and voacbulary as translated in the NASB had influenced my own style of writing and thinking. I noticed that I do have a tendency to write on more complex sentences than most people, and I thought maybe that was taken into consideration. ;-)

At Fri Nov 09, 06:09:00 AM, Blogger jps said...


We were just discussing the reading level thing yesterday afternoon here at Eisenbrauns. I suspect that writing style affects reading level. The KJV tends toward the periodic style, whereas most modern English translations will break up subordinate clauses into independent sentences.


At Fri Nov 09, 10:29:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I wonder what the sentence length is in the NASB. Actually I am just groping for something explicit in reading level assessment - maybe something that says, "hypotaxis over parataxis," as well as sentence length.

However, vocabulary frequency must also play into this. If vocabulary is not in frequent use in contemporary English then that would shift the reading level. There must be vocab. levels based on frequency. It wouldn't be that difficult now for computers to establish how frequently words occur in lterature and then analyse a text for how current its vocabulary is.

I guess I am looking for the type of grammatical construction and vocab. frequency.


It's funny - I was not familiar with the term "periodic" as a synonym for hypotaxis. I learn something new every day. :-)

At Fri Nov 09, 04:55:00 PM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Isn't it odd to think of ONE reading level for the Bible? Each book and some of the chapters within each might well be at different reading levels.

Even if we only think of reading level as an English thing, shouldn't any particular English translation of the scriptures be varied, book by book, chapter by chapter? John F. Hobbins at Ancient Hebrew Poetry has blogged on this a good bit, the unevenness of the Bible and the need for that in translation.


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