Why AR?

From elementary to high schools, Accelerated Reader is still in our schools! How many book lovers have been murdered and left bleeding by the book stacks because of AR? For those who don’t know AR, it is a program that has students reading books and taking tests over them. BUT the fact is, they usually don’t read the book. They Google the book and take the test from that information. Or in the case of my friend’s son, they share the info – two students read two different books and tell each other about theirs, and they each take the test and they get two books out of the way. My nephew is now a BIG HATER of books because of A.R. My niece will only read manga… HOW MANY STUDENTS HAVE TO DIE OF BOREDOM BEFORE AR GETS THROWN OUT?

So much money has been invested in public education for the AR system! We talk about a new millennium, so maybe this is when we should drop it! Many students hate it and end up “living” through it in elementary, intermediate and junior high. In high school, the students are book haters because of it.

AR is touted as helpful for teachers to get students to read or “Reading Management Program.” The books are chosen from various award winners and tests are created to see if the student read the book. One enticing thing is that students get to choose their own books from the list and read above grade level. Librarians are off the hook for book recommendations because there is a list to look at. Librarians become paper pushers instead of reading specialists. What hooey!

I don’t think that “one size fits all” applies to reading. Limiting is the least of the problems with AR. AR doesn’t take away a parent’s responsibility for monitoring what their child is reading. It seems like it might even lull a parent into giving someone else the responsibility. Using rewards is a whole other posting… You want to run a race with others then do so, but don’t use books to create competitiveness among readers. AR is one giant punishment for those who really like to read and it makes non-readers hate reading! It makes cheaters out of honest students who split reading or share answers or do lots of other shady things.

What might have been a good idea in the past has turned into a mess. It would be great if we all read or learned in the same way, but we don’t. Cookie cutter ideas rarely work in our world. I want students to tell me what they loved about a book. How they want to read more by that author. What THRILLED them about a book. Taking a test to punish a child for reading is like killing a mockingbird.

Advertisements

Pollyanna lives

I have always looked on the bright side of the world.  Through the years, students would ask me why I was so happy.  When I was a young girl, my daddy said that it takes as much or more energy to wake up on the wrong side of the bed as it does to wake up on the right side of the bed.  He said that we choose how we are going to feel each morning when we wake up.  From that moment on, I decided to be a “right side of the bed” riser.  I have pretty much lived a positive life and positive things flow my way.  The world has become a bit negative and students seem to be so downtrodden now, that they have a hard time with the concept that we make our own world or environment.

 

I am eager to share books with students, as well as my excitement about life. The students can’t help but catch the “happy” bug when they are around me. I tell them all the time- It’s about the attitude! You will get so much out of life if your attitude is a good one. You will “sell” a lot more books to students if you are excited about them.

I was at a librarians’ meeting today and a few of the librarians were bemoaning Manga as junk instead of a jumping off place for new readers. I had to say, “It doesn’t matter WHAT you read; it only matters that you DO read.” I told them that we rarely read classics and the same is true for our students. I mean, really how many classics have you read in the last few years?
Quite often, life-long readers are created by the “Pollyannas” in the world! We get people all hopped up on reading and they get addicted, and voila! they become life-long readers. Reading is how people become smarter and they don’t even it know it! All of the sudden, a new word makes sense and they hear it everywhere! Or a new idea has formed and they didn’t even know when the seed was planted.

This Pollyanna has to say it again and scream it to the mountaintops across the world – “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU READ; IT ONLY MATTERS THAT YOU DO READ!” Can I get a Hell yeah?

Censorship offends me

Okay, I know this will surely date me to prehistoric times, but do you remember the BOOKMOBILE? The bookmobile day was such an exciting day! We could check out two books for a whole week. Wow! Exciting times. Well, reading has changed. Or maybe that should read – Young Adult books have changed since the bookmobile days! I believe that students should have access to literature and that the student and parent should decide together what is appropriate for the student. That being said, I know that sometimes the books I wanted to read, I didn’t want to discuss with my momma. She tells how she became a reader when she got ahold of the book Peyton Place. She was in high school and the book was passed around her crowd until it was a wreck that no one could read. The more I read – the more “stuff” I would read about. That was much better than hearing false information from friends or no information from home.
When I first became a librarian, the other librarians would talk about how their principal would remove books from their shelves without going through the correct procedures on reconsideration of material policy. I believe that is censorship in its vilest form. It is the job of the librarian to remind principals/parents/people about the district policy that has been adopted about reconsideration of materials. Censorship should not be tolerated. Yes, books have changed, but it isn’t your call what I should read.
Talk about changes – I remember when Judy Blume’s books were all the rage because of content! I couldn’t wait to read them. I don’t think that I became warped because of a book!
My mom thought being informed was better than not.
This quote from Joseph Henry Jackson certainly hits a high note with me: “Did you ever hear anyone say, ‘That book had better be banned because I might read it and it might be very damaging to me?'”
So yes, books have changed due to content and language, but does that make them bad books? It makes them “real” books. I think that librarians today would be hard pressed to find a YA book that doesn’t contain the F-word. Do words on paper really make us better or worse people? Isn’t it better to make your own decisions about what you read? In the words of Bob Dylan – “Times – they are a-changin’.”
In high school we teach Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 where books are banned and burned. I hope people today understand the awful implication of this and will stand against censorship.