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Monday, June 21, 2010

“Keep It Simple” Formula

One of the secrets to Holling’s enduring interest by young people is his simplified vocabulary. Dr. Seuss—Theodor Geisel—also realized this with his severely truncated lexicon in stories like The Cat in the Hat.

Holling’s Paddle-to-the-Sea has a Fog Index of 6.9, meaning 91% of everyday words we use are more difficult to read. His Flesch Reading Index score is 75.2, meaning 90% of other vocabulary is harder. Similarly, only 5% of Holling’s words are “complex. His word choices have just 1.4 syllables per word. And, there are just 12.3 words per sentence.

This doesn’t mean Holling wrote down to youngsters or was patronizing. It does mean a fifth grader can easily pick up a Holling book and understand the story. Home schooling sources regularly cite Holling’s books for their educational value. But, to a nine-year-old, Holling is a captivating guide to new worlds.

(A note of thanks for to E.J. Hirsch, Jr. for What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good Fifth Grade Education, from which these statistics are cited.)

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