Reading Age Formulae

Introduction

Educationalists need to be able to assess the minimum reading age of certain books so that they can be appropriately catalogued, particularly for use with young children.

You are probably aware that, for example, it is much easier and quicker to read one of the tabloids (e.g. 'The Sun') than one of the quality 'heavies' (e.g. ' The Guardian'). What factors influence the reading age of a book, newspaper or pamphlet?

Of course, the whole concept of a designated reading age for a particular book is perhaps rather dubious. Nevertheless, the problem is a real one, and teachers and publishers do need to know the appropriate order for their reading books.

There have been many attempts at designing a formula for finding the reading age of a text. Three such formulae are given below.

1. FORECAST formula


where N is the number of one-syllable words in a passage of 150 words.

2. FOG index


where A = no. of words in passage
n = no. of sentences
L = no. of words containing 3 or more syllables (exluding the'-ing' and 'ed' endings).

3. FLESCH formula


where S = total number of syllables in 100 words
W = average number of words in a sentence.

This score is not a reading age but can be converted to one by using the table below.

ScoreReading Age
score ³ 70
60 £ score < 70
50 £ score < 60
score < 50

 

Exercises

Work out the answers to the questions below and fill in the boxes. Click on the Click this button to see if you are correct button to find out whether you have answered correctly. If you are right then will appear and you should move on to the next question. If appears then your answer is wrong. Click on to clear your original answer and have another go. If you can't work out the right answer then click on Click on this button to see the correct answer to see the answer.

 

Question 1
Read the passage of text below.

The moment we got to the caravan site and saw the ropes and flags set out across the beach I realised something terrible.

There was going to be sports.

I am the least sporty boy ever.

‘Great!’ said Dad, reading the poster. ‘There’s going to be all sorts of races. Sprinting, relay, three-legged, sack-race, egg and spoon. You boys must have a go’

‘It’ll be just for people staying at the caravan site,’ I said quickly. ‘We can’t enter, it wouldn’t be fair.’

‘Don’t be such a wimp, Tim,’ Dad said sharply. ‘Of course you can enter.’

‘But I don’t want to!’ I said.

‘Nor do I, actually,’ said Biscuits loyally.

‘There! We’d have all been much better off if we’d gone for a car ride,’ said Mum. ‘In fact, why don’t we still go? This carnival doesn’t look very exciting. There aren’t any craft or bric-a-brac stalls, and the tombola prizes don’t look much cop. There aren’t even many food stalls.’

From ‘Buried Alive’, by Jacqueline Wilson

Estimate the Reading Age of this passage using the Forecast formula, the FOG index and the Flesch formula.
Where a formula refers to a specific word length, only go up to the point that is that number of words in the passage.

(a)  Forecast formula    
(b)  FOG index
(c)  Flesch formula

 

Question 2
Read the passage of text below.

Free also of his interrogation by the police, when a Justin he didn’t recognise strode to the centre of the stage and, in a series of immaculately sculpted sentences, laid his burden at the feet of his bemused interrogators - or as much of it as a puzzled instinct told him it was prudent to reveal. They began by accusing him of murder.

‘There’s a scenario hanging over us here, Justin,’ Lesley explains apologetically, ‘and we have to put it to you straight away, so that you’re aware of it, although we know it’s hurtful. It’s called a love triangle, and you’re the jealous husband and you’ve organised a contract killing while your wife and her lover are as far away from you as possible, which is always good for the alibi. You had them both killed, which was what you wanted for your vengeance. You had Arnold Bluhm’s body taken out of the jeep and lost so that we’d think Arnold Bluhm was the killer and not you. Lake Turkana’s full of crocodiles, so losing Arnold wouldn’t be a problem. Plus there’s a nice inheritance coming your way by all accounts, which doubles up the motive.’

They are watching him, he is well aware, for signs of guilt or innocence or outrage or despair - for signs of something anyway - and watching him in vain, because, unlike Woodrow, Justin at first does absolutely nothing.

From ‘The Constant Gardener’, by John le Carré

Estimate the Reading Age of this passage using the Forecast formula, the FOG index and the Flesch formula.
Where a formula refers to a specific word length, only go up to the point that is that number of words in the passage.

(a)  Forecast formula    
(b)  FOG index
(c)  Flesch formula

 

Question 3
Read the passage of text below.

Pooh opened his cupboard for a pot of honey.

"Oh, bother!" Pooh cried. "Empty again. Only the sticky part’s left."

Then Pooh heard a buzzing noise. Buzzing meant bees and bees made honey.

"And the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it!" Pooh decided.

Pooh followed the bee outside. The bee flew high up into a tree, a tree filled with sweet, delicious honey.

With his tummy rumbling, Pooh eagerly climbed the honey tree. He climbed, and he climbed.

"Honey!" Pooh declared, reaching the top. But the bees did not want to share with the bear.

They swarmed around Pooh until....oh, bother! He fell! He fell-oof!-and fell-umph!- bouncing off tree limbs until....he landed-whump!- right in the middle of a gorse bush!

"Oh, bother!" Pooh cried. "I suppose it all comes from liking honey too much!" Pooh was even hungrier than before. What was he to do?

"Think, think, think," Pooh thought

Pooh was joined by Christopher Robin. Pooh saw his friend’s balloon and got an idea.

From ‘Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree’, by A A Milne

Estimate the Reading Age of this passage using the Forecast formula, the FOG index and the Flesch formula.
Where a formula refers to a specific word length, only go up to the point that is that numbe ror words in the passage.

(a)  Forecast formula    
(b)  FOG index
(c)  Flesch formula

 

Just for Fun
Choose one of your favourite books and decide what reading age it is intended for. Pick any passage from the book and determine the reading age using the three formulae you have been using. Which one do you think gives the most accurate indication of the reading of age the book?


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Produced by R.D.Geach June 2006
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