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In the article Three Myths About “Reading Levels” (Feb 28, 2017) published by Psychology Today, it is asserted (emphasis mine):

Unfortunately, though, the ubiquity and precision with which these reading levels are now being tested and reported has led to their increasingly inappropriate use, especially in schools. For example, professional development materials accompanying the Common Core initiative instruct teachers to “match” texts to readers based on Lexile level.... For example, that student who tested at 4.6 might only receive credit for reading books leveled from 4.1 to 5.1. Many schools now even restrict the books students can check out from the school library to those at such “appropriate” levels....

The context of the paragraph references so-called "Common Core" standards of the United States, and specifically references a publication of the Georgia Department of Education describing the nature of reading levels, implying that US schools are being spoken of here.

Is there any evidence that it is common for schools, especially US schools, to actually restrict students from checking out materials outside of their assessed reading level? I'm very well aware that one of the major functions of school librarians is to recommend appropriate works for children, but the article seems to imply that "many" schools have moved beyond that into actual restrictions. That is, instead of a student being gently guided to what a librarian or teacher thinks is appropriate reading material (but allowed to make their own final decisions), they are now blocked by official barriers forbidding them from checking out material deemed outside of their current assigned educational goals. Is this actually happening?

To be clear, this question is about alleged policies or practices of actively or positively forbidding students from checking out materials deemed inappropriate to their current literacy level.

This question (and the underlying claim) are not about:

  • Allowing a student to check out a book, but denying them course credit, incentive credit, token economy points, swag, achievement awards, effort awards, gold stars, or other reading incentives (E.g. "You can check out Little Women, but it won't count as progress on your Five Books in Fifth Grade chart because we think it is too advanced for you.").
  • Allowing a student to check out a book, but gently advising them that reading it is not in their best educational interests.
  • Content censorship - that is, restricting students from checking out books based on their content (e.g. students must be 15 or older to check out books on same-sex marriages) rather than their reading levels.
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    So I don't see any reason to distrust Psychology Today in general, but the author does nothing to support her claim w.r.t. books being restricted based on reading level. The one piece of evidence she uses is a link that only encourages parents to follow the practice of reading within their reading level and says nothing about restricting books. A cursory glance at the Common Core website says nothing about restricting what books a student can take out of a library. – DenisS Jan 31 at 17:47
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    When I was in high school the library supposedly prevented kids in the 7th and 8th grades ("junior high") from checking out certain books that were deemed too "adult". There were only a total of about 6 books in the library that met this criterion, though (and I'm thinking I read one of them in the 8th grade, sitting in the library). – Daniel R Hicks Jan 31 at 17:54
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    @DanielRHicks was this due to concerns over reading level, or was this a content related restriction, e.g. for books containing graphic sexuality or violence? The article seems to imply that not only is it a reading level issue, but that it may be done in the other way as well, with advanced readers being forbidden from checking out materials deemed too juvenile or simplistic. – Robert Columbia Jan 31 at 17:56
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    @DenisS exactly, and in fact the author later comes out and actively recommends that this sort of restriction not be implemented. The issue is that the author does claim, without a source, that these sort of restrictions are common practice in schools. The question is that - is this sort of thing something that happens regularly or is it based on mangled anecdotes of, say, 12th grade native English speaking students being given poor grades for doing all their book reports on Dr. Seuss rather than Twain, Alcott, and other more mature authors? – Robert Columbia Jan 31 at 18:03
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    Personal anecdote, my elementary school librarian initially objected to my checking out their Encyclopedia Brown books in first grade until I proved myself by reading the first paragraph of over of the books and explaining it to them. It was a proud moment of my childhood. But I think that was led policy and more a "Honey, are you sure you don't want to check out a good picture book?" moment. – Sean Duggan Feb 1 at 14:54

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