This post originally ran at my blog, Caroline by line, in September 2009.
In honor of the new school year (which for us started yesterday), let's get talking about reading programs, specifically Accelerated Reader.
I have read a lot lately about AR: the program, the books, the ways it encourages/discourages reading, advantages/disadvantages in participating... the list goes on. The discussion has been lively, interesting, and broad in the opinions expressed.
Every year, more schools are participating. Every day, new books are added to the system.
For those of you who aren't familiar with AR, it is a testing program meant to encourage children to read more. Though schools handle the specifics differently, children earn points for passed tests which can then be used to earn rewards. For example, my son, now in third grade, earned the most points for his grade last year (86, but this Mama's not counting, or anything) and received a trophy at the end of school closing ceremony.
Where do I fall on the AR debate? Below I've pasted a comment I left at Goodreads several months ago.
This is such an interesting discussion to read, as a teacher, mother, and writer. When I first started teaching, AR was optional, and I avoided it, feeling the way many of you have mentioned. Later I became part of a school where it was required. I've seen it push children to read. My own sons, natural readers, are very excited about it. It saddens me, however, to see kids held to a reading range, where they can't sample titles above or below. Several of my older students told me they couldn't read certain books that connected nicely to my curriculum because they were below their reading level. And many, many kids only pick up books if they are AR, the saddest aspect of the program. However, new and old books are being added to the list daily.
It's a mixed bag, isn't it? Natural readers will read. My sons read both AR and other titles, happily. Children not so enamored with reading might struggle or find success with AR. What really needs to happen, AR or not, is for teachers and parents to be passionate advocates of literature, reading what's current and what's classic, discussing these titles with their children, asking questions, engaging in the conversation great literature creates. This is how to "make" readers!
Are you familiar with Accelerated Reader? What do you think?