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.

Genre set up

No doubt we would all agree that going to a bookstore is a great place to go. What happens in the bookstore when you can’t find the book you are looking for because you don’t know the genre? Sometimes you stumble upon it. Other times you settle for something else. Sometimes you look it up on their computer system or ask someone… AND sometimes you cry out in frustration!

The genre set up is too limiting for school age students. Especially with a younger audience. I have seen a student who wanted sci-fi reach over and grab an historical fiction just because the books were next to each other on the shelf. When a library is set up by genre, the possibility of a sci-fi lover to go to historical fiction is slim. If books are on the shelf together in alphabetical order by author, students stand a better chance of becoming more rounded readers and branching out to other genres. Genre book tags are somewhat limiting but less so than by genre. What about books that might be two or more genres? Do we waste our limited funds buying the same title so that they can go into different genre places? Our chances of creating life-long readers grows exponentially if the books are together.

I remember as a young reader in school looking for a book “just like that one.” I found many different genres because our library was set up by author. It made me look at certain genres that I would never have looked at if the books had been by genre. My public library has changed to genre and I find that I am running around like crazy looking for books.

This really isn’t about change. I don’t mind change. In fact, I embrace change because it’s healthy. This is about book access and crossing genre lines. Happy Reading!