“So and so didn’t read enough books or pass enough tests to participate in the AR party this month, so they are in the principal’s office reading until they have met their goal”.
I have been on the receiving end of this conversation many times as the elementary librarian. Accelerated Reader is the reading rewards program my school uses, supposedly to engage kids in meaningful reading and testing of reading comprehension. But is it really doing its supposed “job”? After reading the article “What does Accelerated Reader teach Adults and Children?”, I took a deeper look at my own feelings towards the program and all of the negative situations that AR has posed in my career in education.
Does it really increase reading engagement? My thoughts on this question are- no it doesn’t increase engagement in all children. I have watched students who love to read, do well with the accelerated reader program, but have also seen the other side in which students who dislike reading try and read a ton of short and quick reads the day before their goal ends just so they can attend said AR Party every month. Some teachers get fed up with trying to get students to read that they accept those last minute reads, not on their reading level, just so they don’t have to deal with telling the student they won’t be attending the monthly AR party. This, in my opinion is unacceptable. Students aren’t reading because they want to and working to foster their love for reading but rather reading so that they can regurgitate simple recall answers from their reading just to attend a party.
Can we find a better program? I do believe there is a better program out there for teachers. I recently had a chat with my cooperating teacher about our plan for reading goals and AR, and what her thoughts were on how to handle AR. I had just recently read the article about AR and shared with her my feelings, and how I have always felt about AR. She looked at me and said, “oh, Hannah, I am so glad we are on the same page! I have hated AR and what it stands for, for a very long time. I think that students need to read for enjoyment and find what they enjoy reading.” This was a great moment for me in my student teaching/observation time with my cooperating teacher. We are about to set forth a program that will work for our students, with hopes that they will pick books they enjoy and want to share with others, rather than books that fit right in their said Star Reading Level. I feel that if they are reading and engaging in meaningful, personal reading for enjoyment they are going to find or foster their love for reading.
All in all, I would nix AR completely if I could and believe that all the teachers that I work with are capable of finding an alternate reading rewards program for their classrooms that engage in more meaningful reading for their students, AR serves a good purpose for students in middle of the road grade reading level, and high readers, but doesn’t serve much of a purpose for the lower comprehension and fluency readers. My classroom will have reading for enjoyment outside of the necessary reading for subject areas, I have the belief that reading comprehension and fluency will increase for each of my students if I allow them to read what they enjoy. What are you thoughts on AR?