Accelerated reader is a software tool widely used in primary and secondary schools to monitor children’s reading levels. In fact more than 20,000 schools are using it in the United Kingdom.
Children are assessed through a computerised reading test and from that they are given a book level that covers a range of books that encompasses their comprehension. They then choose and read a book within that given level and at the end complete a computer quiz, usually comprising of between ten and twenty multiple choice questions to assess whether or not a they have fully understood the book. Results less then 60% are not considered a pass. Each book carries a point value which is often used to reward children when they have a certain amount of points. The results enable the teacher to assist and motivate reading, monitor progress, and target instruction. Children are often given certificates, or have a class target to reach.
There has been a large amount of controversy surrounding the whole AR programme, which I will attempt to sum up in this blog post!
The biggest complaint from parents is that children are forced to choose a book within their given reading range. However the school library may not have a huge choice of books in that given range, the book must also have an associated AR test if it does not then that particular book can’t be chosen. Therefore a child might become demotivated by the choice of books. Often local libraries are unaware of the system and can’t tell a parent if a given book is part of the AR scheme.
Parents often say that their children are able to read well above the reading range they have been given, but are not allowed those books and therefore become demotivated. Books that are ‘easy’ often hold children back and if they get less that the required 60% they are encouraged to read the book again!
Some parents suggest that their children now regard reading as a chore, reading books just to pass quizzes and not for pleasure. Children are also encouraged to take the test no longer than three days after finishing the book, so that they don’t forget any facts. This again dis-encourages children to read in the holidays as they are ‘missing’ tests. AR is replacing the intrinsic reward gained from reading to an external reward such as a certificate, or extra playtime.
There has also been some evidence that children are cheating at the tests by cribbing the answers from the Internet, or watching the movie of the book.
However other parents say that their children enjoy the challenge of reading and passing a test which earns them points and ultimately a reward. Through testing children the scheme has encouraged poor readers to improve, or to want to compete against more proficient readers, and become self-sufficient in their reading.
What are your experiences of the AR scheme?