Thursday, September 12, 2013

Readability Level

My son recently did a school project for the Lexile reading level for his summer reading list. Scholastic and Barnes & Noble have search engines to help your children find books by grade level. My 11 year old son is reading 10th-11th grade books by this measure, but popular books are more like 7 to 8. Breaking Dawn was 6th grade, Percy Jackson was 7th grade, and Hunger Games/Harry Potter is 8th.

The grade level was pretty simple, I remember hand-computing the Gunning reading level for English class. Basically, the more big words you use, the higher the grade level. My teacher told me that for adult fiction, I should aim for the eighth grade. As I don't want to churn my own butter, I found several websites to compute these values for me. Most only work for 10 or 50 thousand characters and aren't very accurate or fast. The one I liked best was the Flesch-Kincaid level at

I ran all my stories through and hit my goal. Reading ease is a score between 0 and 100 which gets higher the easier it is to read. You loose points for too many syllables per word or too many words per sentence. The target for "standard" is about 60-70 for a thirteen to fifteen year old. At 90, an eleven year old could read it in a comic. Below 30, only grad students and lawyers should brave it. My fiction over the years has shifted only slightly from 58 a decade ago to 62 from this year. Approaching Oblivion is still a raw draft without excess adverbs clipped, and such.

Flesch-Kincaid grade level reading ease
Approaching Oblivion 8 59
Clean and Floss 7 62
Contagion of the Gods 8 60
Doors to Eternity 8 58
Dreams of the Fallen 7 60
Empress of Dreams 7 60
Foundation for the Lost 7 61
Jezebel's Ladder 7 60
Redemption of Mata Hari 7 62
Sanctuary 8 58
Scarab 8 58
Sirius Academy 7 61

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