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Why Reading Counts Doesn’t Count

Last updated on May 25, 2023

When I was in elementary school, I was a very competitive kid. This competitive behavior made me believe I needed to get the highest test scores. When I got an 800 Lexile in second grade, I was ecstatic. I selected a book that was a 790 Lexile and brought it home. Ultimately, I did not understand the book and gave up on reading it. I had wasted my time.

Schools in the Orange Unified School district depend on Scholastic’s Reading Counts program to encourage their students to read and find books that they may like. Although this program has good intentions, it has become a broken website. Books take longer than they should to be added to the program. The scores of certain books are highly inaccurate and, to some degree, inappropriate. 

One book with a Lexile inappropriate to the audience is Percy Jackson: Lightning Thief. The website “HMH Reading Counts – Book Expert Online” lists the book as a 790L. It also states that the story contains “Adult Content & Themes, Violence/Suicide, Strong Language.” However, on the website with the Lexile scoring, a chart assigns it to third to fourth-grade readers. This is a highly inappropriate book for 8-to-9-year-olds, considering the book’s themes.

Another issue with the website is how long it takes for books to be added to the system. This can be seen with the popular series among kids, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. While looking through the selection on the website “HMH Reading Counts,” I found out that they only made the quizzes up to Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Deep End. This means that they are missing three books in the series, with Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Big Shot from 2021 still not included on the website. This poses a problem, as many students may read new books only to find out they can’t take quizzes on them.

The last major problem is how easy it is for students to cheat on Reading Counts. Students can drag the tab over to one part of the screen (minimize it), enabling them to search for the answers. The tests have not been updated, which makes it easier to find test answers. For students who are honest and read the books they take quizzes on, it can be frustrating to find that other students can obtain the same points by cheating.

The issues with the website go beyond just the screen, causing students to become less interested in the program and discouraging them from reading. Whether students read an inappropriate book, are unable to take a book quiz, or are discouraged by how easy it is for cheaters to get the points they need, Reading Counts is a broken website that needs to be fixed or erased by the Orange Unified School District altogether. 

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