Thursday, September 10, 2009

Random Thursday - Accelerated Reader

I'm a huge fan of reading with children. I'm also a huge fan of children reading.

If you haven't had a child in the school district in the past 10-15 years, you may not have heard of a program called Accelerated Reader.

Basically, a company maintains a list of books. The books are classified by length and difficulty, and assigned a point level.

Schools that participate in the AR program select their own "school book lists". Kids from that school get to select books from the list to read. After they read the book, they take a test online, to show they understood the book. They are awarded the number of points for the book.

Students usually have a "point level" they have to achieve by the end of the card marking or semester. Some schools give awards and prizes.

This all sounds great! What a fantastic way to motivate kids to read... Except some of the points evaluations are strange.

Susan Straight wrote a great essay for the New York Times, titled Reading by the Numbers. She points out some of the wonky details. For example, a "Gossip Girl" novel ("...watch the girls drown in luxury while indulging in their favorite sports - jealousy, betrayal and late-night bar-hopping.") is worth 8 points. Hamlet is worth 7 points. Say what? Hamlet is a pretty challenging read...

So, the program is not totally without flaws.

Also, I read an essay a while back, by an home-schooling mom who refused to allow her children to participate in library Summer Reading Programs, because she didn't believe in motivating children to read with prizes. She felt children should only read because they loved reading, not just to get a prize.

What do you think? Do you think AR is a great program? How about Summer Reading Programs? What is the best way to motivate a kid to read?

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