In July, 2011, the AASL Board approved the Position Statement on Labeling Books with Reading Levels. If you haven’t read it, do take some time to do so. I wrote about it over at the SCASL blog back in September, and our SCASL listserv had a pretty heated debate by those who were defending the labeling practice.
But to support teachers that require it, I suggest book boxes or special covers for books that stay in the classroom and are used for instructional time only. The TEACHER should check this book out and NOT the student necessarily, though it can be a collaborative effort between the two. A byproduct is that the student might actually like the reading material. But students should never be forced to checkout books just because it is the right reading level, zpd, or lexile. And no matter how many out there defend the practice, I cannot see myself ever agreeing.
It is the responsibility of school librarians to promote free access for students and not to aid in restricting their library materials. School librarians should resist labeling and advocate for development of district policies regarding leveled reading programs that rely on library staff compliance with library book labeling and non-standard shelving requirements. These policies should address the concerns of privacy, student First Amendment Rights, behavior modification in both browsing and motivational reading attitudes, and related issues.