from Book Riot


by Elizabeth Allen

I’m the type of nerd who spent a good amount of my energy trying to will my teacher into giving us silent reading time. I’m the type of nerd who shot my hand up the instant the teacher called for someone to read aloud so fast I swear my rotator cuff is still jacked. And I’m the type of nerd who had my sights set on that well-worn box in the corner of my 4th grade classroom like it contained all the wisdom of man and womankind.

Ahhhh… the SRA Reading Laboratory. It resided deep in the hearts of all bookish elementary school students in the ’80s and ’90s… second only to that Holy Grail of Book Nerds, The Scholastic Book Fair. And the goal? To make your way through the rainbow and to prove that you’re the ultimate reader (I don’t remember having lots of friends in elementary school, now that I think about it).

The premise?  This giant box of gloriousness was full of stories, each one assigned a particular color based on developmental milestones. Students initially took a brief test to determine what color (reading) level they should start at and then were given a story on card stock labeled with that color. After reading the story, you answered a series of reading comprehension questions related to what you just read. Successfully make your way through enough of these stories and you got to move on to the next color in the box. Educators used this as a way to both teach reading comprehension and to get a better understanding of the reading levels of their students.  And let’s be honest, the air of competition helped some of us lazier students.

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