Accelerated Reader: Brilliant or Insane?

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6 ways teachers kill the joy of learning
photo credit: wecometolearn via photopin cc

The popular reading program, Accelerated Reader, is loved by many teachers and hated by others.

I’ve heard principals praise Accelerated Reader, known simply as AR by many, as a valuable tool that improves reading skills in students. Other teachers and some parents have told me they believe that Accelerated Reader kills the joy of reading, because AR removes choice from young readers, forcing them to read a book that the Accelerated Reader metric places on their level.

Unfamiliar with Accelerated Reader? Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

Accelerated Reader is a software tool that assesses a student’s reading level, suggests titles of books at that level, and then assess whether a student has completed reading the book by asking a series of questions.

Parents who like Accelerated Reader report enjoying the fact that they can see so-called progress online, because students take 10-question quizzes on their AR books, and the scores are emailed to parents.

Still, others are outspoken on their hatred of Accelerated Reader. Consider this pointed criticism of AR by famous young adult author Judy Blume.

What I don’t like and what I really don’t like — intensely hate, you could say — is the Accelerated Reader program, even though many of my books are in that program, because they rate books, not on emotional content or emotional readiness. Judy Blume

Accelerated Reader’s intentions seem noble: encourage young readers to read books that they can comprehend and increase their reading level as they continue reading. Accelerated Reader, at least on the surface, seems to encourage reading.

On the other hand, do you want your child’s purported reading level measured by a computer program? Do you want teachers and school librarians telling your child she can only read particular books–those on her AR reading level?

The world certainly needs more readers and improved literacy.

So, you tell us. Is Accelerated Reader brilliant? Or is Accelerated Reader insane?

Please respond in the comment section below with your answer.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder and CEO of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series -- books that provide right-now solutions for teachers and learners. Mark is the author or publisher of dozens of books, including Bestseller Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Join more than 140,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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