Accelerated Reader

I knew ML’s school participated in Accelerated Reader, most often referred to as AR. As a public librarian, it’s the bane of my existence. Children and parents request help finding books at a certain level worth a certain number of points, not caring if the book looks interesting to the child.  Students are forced to reach a certain number of points each week, month or year.

Kindergarteners at ML’s school do not participate in AR. When I learned first graders participate in this program, I was ready to rumble. Accompanied with my Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Masters in Library Science, I planned to visit the school with the latest research on why AR was a bad thing. After reading the explanation of how ML’s school uses AR, I decided to stay home.

Here’s what I like about their implementation

  • “Children should be encouraged to select books in the range of one year above or below their current reading level. The higher books provide a challenge while the lower books provide a sense of mastery.” I love the word encouraged instead of required. ML can read a wide range of books. According to AR, the Rainbow Magic books I posted about earlier this week are at a 4th grade level. At many schools, ML and her friends would not be allowed to take tests on these books because they are way above their level. Considering these books are a large percentage of their recreational reading choice at this time, not being able to take tests on them would be frustrating.
  • The school specifically and succinctly explains non-fiction is harder to read. ML can read beginning fiction chapter books with multiple paragraphs per page. However,  her ability to comprehend and pass tests on non-fiction books include texts with only one or two sentences per page.
  • Students don’t get silly plastic prizes. Instead, they receive passport stamps throughout the year. When ML reaches the AR goal for her grade, she’s invited to the AR Celebration at the end of the school year.
  • It’s optional.  No one is required to participate.

What is a level anyway? Stay tuned. I’ve been working on a post for weeks about book levels. All I can really say at this moment is it’s complicated and it depends on a variety of factors. Intellectually I understand it, but putting it into non jargon words is difficult.

I’m holding back judgement of this program as a parent.  As a librarian, I’m not convinced there is a measurable benefit compared to the expense of this program.  Not to mention the stress it places on parents and their children who have to find a book at a certain level on the list in the few hours between school and bedtime.

But my hat goes off to the Friends of the Library and Media Specialist at ML’s school for creating a positive implementation of this program. I was so impressed, I attended my first Friends of the Library meeting at her school this morning.

4 comments

  1. Did you know I was an AR quiz writer when we lived in Wisconsin? It was a great job – getting paid to read books! It sounds like ML’s school is one if the few using the program as it was originally intended. Most don’t.

  2. We spoke about this the other day when I was at the library with my daughter. I appreciate you taking the time to help me find books that fell into the “AR guidelines” and yet would be interesting and fun to her. She has finished a few of them, and so far the ones you helped me choose have been a hit. Next up “Rump – The True Story of Rumplestiltskin”. She tells me that she started it and it is funny. Look forward to talking with you again.

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