I promise this will be my last rant on the widely popular Accelerated Reader program, but I feel the need to share an essay posted last summer to the New York Times. Author Susan Straight’s “Reading by Numbers” gives a parent’s perspective on the negative impact this “reading management” software that reduces reading to a system of points and rewards based on multiple-choice online quizzes can have on young readers, even when they are growing up in what I assume is a highly literate home environment.
Librarians and teachers report that students will almost always refuse to read a book not on the Accelerated Reader list, because they won’t receive points. They base their reading choices not on something they think looks interesting, but by how many points they will get. The passion and serendipity of choosing a book at the library based on the subject or the cover or the first page is nearly gone, as well as the excitement of reading a book simply for pleasure.”
I can’t help wondering about the 8th grade language arts teacher Susan Straight references in the first paragraph, who announced at back-to-school night that she “refused to use the program.” Did her administrators and English department colleagues know about her refusal? If so, were conversations about the impact of AR on nurturing “a lifelong love of reading and learning” happening? Were parents joining in the conversation?
Or was this teacher the lone dissenter at her site? I hope not.
I know that districts tend to value programs they have to pay for (an observation shared by NCTE colleague and mentor Allen Webb) and that given all that teachers have on their plates already, it’s understandable to like a program that can be reduced to automated scoring. So depending on the climate and culture of a site or district, taking a stand on AR could get messy.
If you or any of your colleagues are looking for some support, I recommend reading the comments posted to:
- Accelerated Reader -Time to say no?
- On Promoting a Love of Reading
- Accelerated Reader – Four questions for administrators
As always, your comments are welcomed!