Sunday, January 14, 2007

Accelerated Reader And School Libraries

Full Disclosure: A number of my books are Accelerated Reader titles.

Accelerated Reader is a computerized program used in many schools. The company overview says "With Accelerated Reader (AR), you’ll build enthusiasm for reading in every student. Your students will read more and better books, and love every minute of it. As a result, their test scores will soar and their attitudes about school will improve."

Students read books and take quizzes that the Accelerated Reader company has created. They earn points which (so I've heard) they can turn in for some sort of reward. The idea is to motivate kids to read.

Other than having read at some school websites that students can earn 9 points by reading The Hero of Ticonderoga and 7 points for reading A Year with Butch and Spike, I really have very little experience with this program. I am not prepared to comment on it one way or another. Jim Trelease (The Read-Aloud Handbook) has collected information on Accelerated Reader at his website.

So why am I writing about Accelerated Reader since I appear to have so little to say about it? Well, last month I heard through one of my Cybils buddies about a school library that purchased only AR titles for its collection. And then last week I finally got around to reading the September-October SCBWI Bulletin. It carried an article by Deborah J. Lightfoot in which she described how she'd encountered the same situation.

I'm not entirely sure what's going on with schools that limit their purchases to AR titles. Do the kids not want to read anything that's not an AR title because they won't get a reward? Does the school want to support the software program it purchased by providing only AR titles?

Now this is a frustrating situation for authors of books that haven't been picked up by Accelerated Reader, since it appears that it may be cutting down on sales for them. I don't know how my books got into their system, though it is certainly to my benefit that they did.

But how do parents of children in AR schools feel about this? Are their schools buying only AR books? And, if so, do they feel their kids are being discouraged from reading outside the program?


Anonymous said...

Hi! Accelerated Reader does not need to be used with rewards or incentives, and each school chooses whether to do so. The company does not encourage it, and the report linked to below states that incentives are not required. Schools that buy books with quizzes in AR do so in order to use AR more fully, but they do not need to buy just those books. (Note that saying "AR books" is not accurate because only AR consists of quizzes - not books. "Books with AR quizzes" or "books in AR" is more accurate.)

Anonymous said...

Oh, by the way, the part that talks about the incentives is under Quiz Development. It's hard to find...