Let’s boycott graded readers that don’t print/publish word counts

word count

Right, I have had enough.

Our graded reader program uses word counts to track student progress. I believe this is superior to using pages or books or time. It makes it easy to compare students across levels, and to standardize goals and progress.

Every year, I spend days searching for word counts, writing them in books, putting them on our website, and even counting words by hand because the publisher refuses to release the word counts for the book (why, Black Cat, why?).

Well, I’m not going to do that any more. I understand that each publisher is free to make editorial and design decisions, and not printing word counts on books is one of them. However, I am also free to decide which books I buy, and I would like to say publicly here that I will no longer be ordering graded readers that do not have word counts printed clearly on them. I have an unlimited budget here at Tohoku University, and a considerable one at Cambridge English, and from now on I will be using those funds exclusively to buy readers from publishers that listen to teachers when they say that they need the word counts on the books.

I would like to invite other teachers that use extensive reading and graded readers to join me. Please contact your sales rep/book distributor and let them know that you care about this issue. I’m guessing that we will see some changes fairly quickly if enough people get involved.

Are you with me? πŸ˜‰


14 May 2013, 3:43pm
by Richard Lemmer


and books form some of these publishers are always among the finalists for the Language Learner Literature Awards. Go figure.

Hey Richard
Great point. I love the books but the (unnecessary) extra work is killing me πŸ™‚

14 May 2013, 4:54pm
by Cory Koby


I am with you 110% Ben- right on the money!

Thanks Cory
It’s interesting that so far some people think calling for a boycott is too harsh, but no one has made any case for not printing word counts on readers πŸ™‚

14 May 2013, 6:59pm
by Steve Williams


No one wants to rain on your parade.

My questions are:
Is there a huge demand for word counts in books?
Are the publishers looking at the end user as opposed to the teacher?
If it is the former then I’m not sure they really see the need for word counts. If it is the latter then it may be that the publishers feel most of us use the books not to compare students or standardize goals but to help students reach their goals. They aren’t thinking about accountability to administration.

Sorry, but I won’t be joining your boycott because I don’t feel it is important to standardize goals or compare students in my circumstances. That might change if I was in your position, I admit.

Hi Steve

Thanks for the comment! Don’t worry, I don’t feel rained on πŸ˜‰

A lot of people I know would like to see word counts on all books as standard. Many institutional programs (at junior and senior high schools, universities, juku) use word counts to set goals. It’s an essential part of our ER@TU program.

Working with individuals one-on-one, word counts are much less important, I agree. We use them at Cambridge with group classes mainly as a way to set achievable goals. With private students I don’t bother with them.

The call to arms is mainly aimed at teachers that share my frustration with having to ‘fix’ readers when the publishers could have designed them properly in the first place πŸ˜€

YES! I have this problem too, although I did find that for children’s graded readers, the Renaissance Learning Quiz Store publishes word counts as well as individual book levels (the first number is the US-grade equivalent and the number after the decimal point is the month in school, so a book level of 1.5 is suited in vocabulary and grammar for a first grader in his/her fifth month of the year). (www.renlearn.com/store/quiz_home.asp?c=1 – you don’t have to purchase.

Hi Elizabeth-Anne
Thanks for stopping by! That link looks really useful -very much appreciated πŸ™‚

couldn’t you make it part of your homework for JHS students? Kill two birds with one tome πŸ™‚

Simon, that is brilliant πŸ™‚

But I couldn’t do it to them. It’s just too boring and pointless.

Processing readers year after year feels like the ‘dig a hole then fill it in’ punishment: soul-destroying

Well, (ahem) It would be good for people to support those publishers (importers) who do. Why don’t you buy some Helbling readers from Abax! πŸ™‚

Hi Alastair
Thanks for posting! I love the Helbling readers, but unfortunately they do not have word counts written on them (at least the ones we got last month didn’t). I have also been unable to find complete word counts for them at the ERF website.


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