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At Jump Into a Book we are dedicated to creating fun reading-based activities and adventures for children, families, and all who love books from “our” favorite children’s books. We strive to help children pull books off shelves and adventures off pages.
But sometimes this involves asking hard questions, and today is no different. Today we want to discuss Accelerated Reader.
Accelerated Reader (AR) is a program which is used in school systems throughout the United States. Using actual literature to create enthusiastic readers, AR helps:
- Personalize and guide independent reading
- Develop lifelong readers and learners
- Tap into unlimited quizzes and enjoy online support
- Increase parental support with web-based, school-to-home communications
- Equip students to meet the rigors of state standards and CCSS ( Common Core Studies)
A student’s reading level is determined by the STAR test which is partnered with the Accelerated Reading Program. Children are encouraged to select books within their reading levels. After reading the book a child takes a short multiple choice quiz no the computer. Students must answer 80% of the questions correctly to receive AR points for that book selection. At the end of the semester, those children reaching their AR goal receive a prize or some sort of reward.
AR consists of 4 components:
- It provides a wide variety of books
- It allots a designated time to read. The AR program recommends an hour a day.
- It includes a test based on the low level facts of the book.
- It awards prizes based on the number of points scored on the quizzes and our school gave awards based on how many books read.
AR, accelerated reader, has been a part of my life as long as I’ve had children in school. In the beginning it was quite exciting. Each week my girls would go to the library and pick 2 books at their AR level. They had many great bonding moments with Ms Cox the librarian and both excelled into voracious readers. As they moved up the AR scale to higher and higher reading levels appropriate age level books began to dwindle. My girls didn’t seem to mind, they would read the “required” AR book and supplement their reading interests with books they enjoyed more. As I look back at those moments I can tell you they were uneventful.
All this was to change when my son started reading. Though always positive, he was a child who liked to be read to and wasn’t keen on learning to read for himself. Going through the same steps as his sisters before him; weekly he would go to the library to pick out his two books. The only difference is that he fell in love with one book, “When Grandpa was a Flyer.” Every week he wanted to check out this book and he would kindly tell Ms Cox that she could keep the other book he was to check out for someone else. Every week became a struggle as new books were checked out and reluctantly read. AR time became dreaded with lots of tears,and a lot of avoidance. He quickly learned to work the system however, because he had to check out two books. He would check out two books which could be read easily to quickly earn AR points. He would even opt out of a longer books he really wanted to read for “more” points because it would take too long and he might not reach his AR goal.
AR also bled over into our family reading time. As we would choose our books for family reading young son would mention that it wasn’t at his AR level, that he wouldn’t be getting any points for it, and so therefore was a waste of his time. This was a huge concern for me as in my opinion reading is a reward unto itself. To have a system in place which deems a book “worthy” or “unworthy” based upon reading level points became very frustrating for me. When one has a resistant reader in the house any reading time becomes a discussion, a well thought out process on the part of the reader, i.e. my son.
Now we are in the middle school years and I’m happy to say that Wonder Son loves to read but it isn’t because of AR. It’s because we supplemented his reading with a wide variety of books he wanted to read and we designated a different time for his personal reading. I don’t test what he’s read but it becomes very apparent if he understood what he’s read when we go to create a book adventure or jump into a book with his friends. He is very much on the organizing end of these events. Enjoying time with family and friends organized around our favorite books is the reward for finishing the book.
In my opinion, in the early years of the AR program there are so many great book selections but is what often happens is the child excels to a high reading level before they’ve matured age wise. I do not know many 9-year-old boys reading at a sophomore level who could really grasp Between Shades of Grey or a 6th grader reading Catcher in the Rye. It’s just not age appropriate. With my son AR was just a chore and I really worried about him not loving to read.
I think to be fair I need to talk on the flip side of AR. Clearly I’m very involved with my children’s reading and learning in general but those students that do not have parent interaction and support at home are at risk. The AR program does put books in the hands of children, monitors them, and rewards them for their progress.
Clearly I’ve had a mix of experiences. It’s only now as I see my son wanting to read certain books like “Eragon” and told “No, that’s too easy for you” and then having to read something he’s not interested in doesn’t seem to be serving the idea of raising readers for a lifetime.
I’m so interested in knowing how AR is working in your home or school?
Has it been a positive experience or have there been difficulties ?
If you’re a teacher, has it been effective with your students ? If so how ? If not why ?
I’d love to open this up for a discussion as it’s my desire to have every child loving their right to read. Always interested in hearing the many perspectives out there. Please share your thoughts below.