A few years back, a colleague of mine and I noticed that our honors students consistently chose books that were too easy for them. It was early in the school year and we needed to figure out a way to solve this problem before too much time passed. Steve created an analogy that served us well, which sounded like this:
Teacher: So, I noticed that many of us are picking out books that just aren't quite right for us. I'm worried about that. If you wanted to become the best ping-pong player in the world, what would you need to do?
Students: Practice a lot.
Teacher: Right. So let's say that you practiced 6 hours a day. Would that make you the best ping-pong player in the world?
Students: Probably not.
Teacher: Can you think of anything else you would need to do to become the best?
Students: Well, we'd have to play against some of the best players in the world. Like the Chinese.
Teacher: That sounds pretty challenging, but would you be on the right track to become the best player?
Teacher: True. The same is true for anything we do in life. How do you think we can become better readers?
Students: Pick harder books.
After this conversation, Steve and I introduced our students to Lexiles (see The Lexile Framework for Reading for more on this). We talked about how books are assigned Lexiles by creating the following chart on the board: