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Rethinking Accelerated Reader

I                                         never thought the day would come when I would rethink my use of a  popular reading program in which students read a book from their independent reading range, take a computerized quiz and collect points to try to reach an independent reading goal. After much thought, reflection and chats with educators across the country, the day has come.

Don't get me wrong. I've used the program and I feel I've had wonderful results with it. After all, it gave me exactly what I always said I needed from it. It gave me a gauge as to whether my students were real reading or fake reading. It also, in my opinion, helped reluctant readers to become engaged readers. Wait...well, those sound like reasons to keep using the program. Definitely, they are. However...

Many former students whom I have kept contact grew up and didn't learn to love to read. They read to please the teacher. They read because they wanted the good grades. They read because they wanted to be successful and to make their parents proud. They didn't read because they had fallen in love with reading.

Why is falling in love with reading such an important issue? Students who fall in love with reading read more. Reading more makes one smarter. According to Refresh Leadership, the average CEO reads 4-5 books a month. They point out this is 4-5 books more than the average person reads in a year.

In discussing the issue with middle and high school teachers, over the years many of my frustrated cohorts in the upper grades have lamented that students just won't read. At first, I used to take offense to the statement. "Well, they read when they were with me. What are YOU doing to prevent them from reading?" And there it is...I had to face the man staring back at me in the mirror.

After reflecting, I've decided that points and goals and quizzes may not be the best way to foster the love of reading in my students. Perhaps, there's another way. Maybe that way is getting to know my students and their interests. Maybe it is matching the right books to my students. Maybe it's taking time to talk with them about what they're reading rather than talking with them about the number of points they need by Friday. Maybe it's about allowing students to read books they genuinely want to read rather than reading a book because it's on their level. Maybe it's about better setting them up for success. Maybe it's about them becoming a CEO, an engineer, a police officer, a chef, a lawn care worker and loving to read.

Maybe it's about them growing wiser, more empathetic, kinder, gentler, stronger. Maybe it's all of those things. Maybe it's worth the try.

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