This is just my opinion, but…I absolutely hate AR (Accelerated Reader)–always have, always will. At least I’m consistent and most people have had to hear me talk about this subject at nauseum. I’m bringing it back up again and here’s why. The past several weeks I have had conversations with one of my own children that have pained me greatly. I’ve managed to bite my tongue with the child, but on a personal and professional level, it was extremely difficult and I can’t keep quiet any longer. I have the research to back up my professional and personal beliefs, as well as personal experience.
I should give you the background that last quarter I took a hands-off approach to my child taking AR tests and he got 50 out of 200 possible points for the quarter–not a stellar result.
I am a fan of reading logs that go back and forth between home and school where students record how long they’ve read and how many pages. You can really learn a lot, both as a reader (or as a prying parent) by looking at how much they accomplish in a home setting compared to a school setting. You won’t always learn the same thing-some kids are consistent between home and school, some will spend 20 minutes “reading” at either home or school and only get 2 pages “read”, while accomplishing 12 at the opposite location. That tells me that at the 2 page location, the student is really distracted or just pretending to read.
I am also a fan of having individual reading conferences with students based on their independent reading and reading log. Not everyday mind you, no teacher is Superwoman, but on a regular basis which becomes even more frequent with reluctant or struggling readers.
So I’ve been riding herd daily on my child about their home reading, ensuring that they take the same independent reading book back and forth between home and school. We read with the child as a model in the same room, we listen to books on tape in the car, we have Kindles, bookshelves full of books, we have conversations about books compared to other books, books to life, etc.
I thought that I had dealt with the issue for this quarter, but based on these conversations, I have not. Here is a sample:
“Mom, I need to read a 11 point book so I have enough points for the quarter. I’m going to search 11 point books on the internet and see what I can pick from.”
“Mom, I need to check the name of a (certain minor) character in my book. The name of a character is the kind of question I am sure to be asked on an AR quiz.”
“Mom, do you know any 7 point books that I can read? Maybe I can buy one on the Kindle.”
me-What about that new series you were so excited to read and you started over the weekend? Child-“Well that doesn’t have enough points so I’m not going to be able to read that AND another book to have enough points for the quarter.”
“Mom, I know I picked out a book to read, but since it’s worth 14 points, I’m going to save it for next quarter because it gets me almost all my points for the whole quarter.”
Never once does said child talk about genre, reading interests, series, or any of the things I consider important and necessary. I’m worried about said child’s reading stamina, their love of reading (or more like their lack thereof), their exposure to multiple genres, some of which should include non-fiction.
In no way do I feel that the 10 AR questions said child is going to have to answer about any given book a good reflection of their comprehension. Nor do I feel that reading for points, pizza (Pizza Hut Book-it–hate it), or any other reward is necessary. Not that I’m above an old-fashioned bribe now and then, but for something so essential to success as an adult, no.