Naked Reading: Chapter 1

I have to join Lesesne in her frustrations with the Accelerated Reading program. I think that it damages the relationship between students, parents, and their local library.  Instead of trusting librarians to interview the student and give good readers advisory, students come in with lists of books to try and find.  As the lists they are given must fit within a narrow reading level range and be one of the books the program has made a quiz for, parents and students often get needlessly frustrated and disappointed when librarians are only able to locate a small number of books on the list.  It also then limits the number of books that librarians can recommend, as they must choose from the more limited number of books that are both on the list and at that library, rather than from the entire catalog.  Usually, librarian recommendations don’t even enter into it at all as there are so few books found that each one of them is checked out.*

It’s a constant frustration at my branch, figuring out how to assist the large numbers of students whose schools use the AR program – without changing our own reading philosophies to overly cater to a program that only some of our patrons use.

Personally, as someone who has always read a wide range of reading levels, I also disagree with the philosophy of having each reader read only within a narrow reading level.  I understand that its often a good practice for helping kids increase their reading level, but I’m not sure sure that’s its all that great for encouraging reading for pleasure.  I tell parents who come in asking for help finding books for their children that it’s ok – good even – to let their kids vary how hard or easy the books they read are.  That it’s good to try and find books slightly above their reading level, but very high interest, for them to read, and then also let them continue reading the easier series that helped them learn to love reading in the first place.

Having poked around the internet for some opinions and studies, it sounds like Lesesne isn’t the only one to question AR’s effectiveness in creating lifelong learners.  In this blog post Mark Pennington lists 18 reasons not to use AR.  One of the parts that I found most interesting was his comment about AR minimizing the opportunity to share reading with others; for the past 6 months I’ve been on the California State Library Summer Reading Outcomes Committee, and one of the main focuses of the survey and focus groups questions the committee developed was the idea of reading as a social activity, especially when it comes to the kids that don’t identify as bookworms.

 

A recent report from the Department of Education on AR found that it “[had] no discernible effects on reading fluency or comprehension for adolescent learners.”  I rather suspect that AR is one of those programs that helps some kids in some ways, but – like anything – does not help all kids in all ways.  But, because of the cost and the time it saves teachers (who have very little to begin with) it ends up being relied on more than it should.

 

*I was curious about why this happens, so I checked out AR’s bookfinder to see if a bunch of books on my reading list for this class – most of which I have checked out from my own branch – had quizzes.  Just about all of them did.  I also checked a few authors and found some of their books missing from the list, but most of the series I was looking for all had quizzes.  So, now I’m more curious than ever why the lists the parents and students bring in seem to have so many books that we can’t find in our library.  While I do know that we need to repurchase some classic titles that have become damaged and withdrawn, I did not think that our collection had that many holes in it, and many of the titles on the list parents bring in are books I’ve never even heard of.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Mary Ann Harlan
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 10:45:18

    My guess about your question is the a) the list hasn’t been updated recently and bookfinder is a new-ish tool and b) that it has to do with reading levels rather than interest levels and a potential teacher bias towards newer middle grade and YA titles/

    Reply

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