Monday Media: High-Low Fiction

The problem:
A terrifying percent of high-schoolers can’t read. (77% of 8th graders read below grade level in CA.)

The solution? 
Write books for teens at a 3rd-grade level.

The LA Times reported that Saddleback Educational Publishing is launching a new “Flip” series: where each books is written half from the perspective of a cheerleader and, when you flip it over, the other half is written from the perspective of an athlete. The books talk about peer pressure, sex, and school… and are written using vocabulary and sentence- structure appropriate for a 3rd-grader.

Now, I use children’s books in my foreign language classroom all the time so, yes, “younger” books can help teach older students basic language skills … we learn the future & conditional tenses with “Si le des una galletita a un ratón” (“If You give A Mouse A Cookie”) and the correct conjugation of verbs like “gustar” with “Huevos verdes con jamón” (“Green Eggs & Ham”). But will High-Low fiction books come across as contrived and textbook-y since they were written with an educational  goal rather than a literary one? I will be interested to check these out and see.

So what do you think of the High-Lo concept? Is it a literary cop-out? Or is it a good way to teach language-learning, even if the target is not a second language but a native one? 

About Tara Sullivan

Author of GOLDEN BOY (2013), THE BITTER SIDE OF SWEET (2016), and TREASURE OF THE WORLD (2021). Published by Penguin Books for Young Readers Find out more at Or, follow me on Twitter: @SullivanStories
This entry was posted in Language Learning, Media, Teaching, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Monday Media: High-Low Fiction

  1. Katie says:

    I’ve had middle school teachers actually request this type of thing from me when I’m out at schools and they learn I write kidlit. They are desperate for books that are written at lower levels but retain a storyline that feels real and interesting to older kids. And they’d prefer such books to have older-looking covers, too.

  2. Writer Jobs says:

    Another nice post today thanks. I really enjoyed reading it very much. Have a great day.

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  3. I agree: I think it’s a fascinating idea but the key is that they still have to be well written– kids can sense when something has been created formulaically to “make them” do something they don’t want to do.

  4. Thanks so much for the comment.

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