What is Your Reading Level?
Did you know that the average adult reads between a 7th and 9th grade level? And studies show that we like to read two grades below our reading level for entertainment. Well I have a daughter going into the 7th grade, and one going into the 10th this fall. They are intelligent girls and all, but my 38-year-old self would be insulted if I had to stop at their reading level.
And yet there are plenty of intelligent people who do not have the stamina to read a popular level book on the basics of theology. As a writer in this genre, I often wonder at the irony of writing a book that is technically supposed to be at a lower reading level than the Bible. I mean, the Bible is for everyone, right? What reading level is the Bible? There is some disagreement, but according to the chart offered at Christianbook.com, the ESV is written at a 10th grade reading level.
I think that is generous.
There are many words and concepts in Scripture that are completely foreign to the average 10th grader. And yet, I know many wonderful adults who have been raised in the church and openly say that they can't get through a popular level book on theology. It does make me wonder if they can get through their Bible then, because these type of books are to help and supplement their Bible reading.
Let's take Hebrews for example. There is a pretty strong admonishment given in Hebrews because the writer wants to get into the priestly order of Melchizedek and they are still hung up on the basics of the faith:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (5:12-14).
This is curious. Now we are blending reading level with theological maturity. I wonder, what's the reading level of Hebrews? We see in this warning that the writer had to condescend to a lower level of teaching than he wanted. And yet I think many of us today would agree that Hebrews is very meaty. This should cause us to stop and evaluate whether we are growing in our knowledge of the Lord. There's also comfort in the fact that we will always be growing. God's Word is able to provide both the milk for the babe in Christ, as well as strong meat for the mature. But our goal is to become mature, right? Can the average reader even get through Hebrews?
I don't think there has been a comprehensive study on American reading levels since 2003. Technology has boomed so much since then, I would think it has maybe affected the average reading level. Unfortunately, I don't think it is for the better. There are plenty of studies that have shown that our attention spans are shrinking, and that technology is actually physiologically changing our brains. What's a pastor to do these days, preaching to a congregation whose attention spans need a major workout? Well, I'm not going to solve that problem today, but maybe pastors would like to share some of these articles to help equip better readers in their congregations: