Dear Schools, Please STOP with the AR Tests and Reading Logs

posted in: Homeschooling, Public School | 6

Let's do away with AR tests and reading logs and focus on fostering a love of reading.

Dear Schools, Please STOP with the AR Tests and Reading Logs

It’s not helping my kids read. It’s not helping my kids learn to love reading. In fact, it is stifling my kids.

I am not a trained teacher I am a mom.

I am not an expert in literacy.

I don’t have a degree in teaching or early education but do you know what I do have? Twenty-one years of on-the-job-training with over 15 of those being a homeschool mom. I’ve taught ten kids to read. I’ve cultivated a house full of avid readers. In fact, as I type these words, seven-year-old Apollo is tucked in next to me engrossed in a book.

My kids read for information, sure, but I would argue that reading for pleasure is essential for growing well-rounded kids who become well-rounded adults.

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Reading Logs Don’t Help Kid Learn to Love Reading

When we made the difficult choice to stick our younger children in school in 2012 I noticed something almost immediately, my kids stopped reading for fun*. Now, part of it was simply that they had less time to read because they were in school all day, but that wasn’t the main reason they stopped. They stopped because they didn’t want to be bothered to fill out reading logs.

Hezekiah, who was reading within a month of his fourth birthday and was reading chapter books before he was 4 1/2, suddenly didn’t want to read at home. As a third grader, he was required to fill out a reading log that included name of book, name of author, pages read, and time spent reading. Now, he could, of course, have read at home and not recorded it in his reading log, but his teacher said they “needed to record their reading” and Hezekiah is Type A. So he dutifully recorded his reading. And because it was an unpleasant (and certainly unnecessary task) he chose to read less.

Reading used to be fun. Something my kids did in their leisure, on car rides, on long, lazy days. Now suddenly, it was a chore. A box to be checked.

Homework.

boy choosing library book

AR Tests Don’t Help Kids Learn to Love Reading

What is the one thing worse (in my opinion) than reading logs? Accelerated Reader Tests. In their own words, “The Accelerated Reader program is a computerized program that tests reading comprehension”.

In elementary school, my kids have been required to set Accelerated Reader (AR) goals and take AR tests. This consists of reading a book and then finding the corresponding AR test on the computer program at school. The tests consist of comprehension questions to make sure the child understood what they read.

In addition, the kids set AR goals for themselves and track them throughout the year.  The kids are acutely aware of how many AR points any given book is worth. This is not what I want my kids basing their book selection on.

Sorry Kids, Those New Books Don’t Count; There Are No AR Tests Yet

The problem?

I can think of several, actually, but one main problem has been this has limited the books my children choose to read. You see, they have to set their AR goal and read enough books (and take enough tests) to reach that goal. As a blogger, I get sent dozens of books every year to review, many of these are not even available for purchase yet.

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If you look closely at the book in Tucker’s hand, you can see it says Advance Uncorrected Galleys. Tucker read this book. Tucker enjoyed this book. But guess what? It won’t count toward his AR goal because they don’t have an AR test written on it yet. I have seen my kids pass over brand new (unreleased!) books in our house in favor of one on the AR list.

There is No Solid Evidence that AR Tests and Programs Improve Reading.

You don’t have to look far to find opponents of the AR program. Pennington Publisher has an article listing 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader. Reason number one is limited book selection.

Amen.

Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh makes a great case against AR in her article Why I Believe AR is Bad for LIteracy and Bad for Students. 

This excerpt from the Read-Aloud Handbook expresses the author’s negative feelings about the program…even as he admits he has been a speaker at AR conferences.

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What Should We Do Instead of AR Tests and Reading Logs?

So what’s the answer? Kids learn to love reading by getting excited about the stories within the books. Yes, I know not all kids are raised in homes full of books or with parents able to read to them every night. But does anyone actually believe AR tests are going to help those kids?

Teachers need to work to instill a love of reading in our kids. This means reading out loud to them. Showing kids the wonder and mystery in books. Letting kids pick out their own books even if they aren’t at their “reading level” (believe me, my kids could share stories of not being able to pick books out of the school library because they were the “wrong” level). Encouraging kids to read for fun, not to get a certain number of points.

Let’s bring back the love of reading. 

A couple of notes:

1. I am not blaming teachers, they work under their own set of rules and guidelines.

2. I am not talking about never assigning a book for kids to read. I am saying let’s find ways to encourage a love of reading for the sake of reading, aside from any books that might be assigned for classwork.

3. Thankfully, over time, my kids are back to reading for pleasure, but still often base their choices on AR points.

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6 Responses

  1. Tanya Redfield

    Your points are very valid…I have also seen books chosen for the points and books unread because they aren’t AR approved. We don’t do reading logs…I would hate those too! I see the drawbacks. However, I have kids spanning 20 years, and the good that I see in AR is that it allows kids to read at a level appropriate to them. 25 years ago when our oldest entered kindergarten, he was already an early reader. He had to suffer through hours of sitting with his peers as they learned the alphabet, one letter at a time. Fortunately he had a fabulous teacher for kindergarten who caught on quickly to his boredom and gave him things to do that were appropriate and stimulating for his level. But then came first grade and the WORST TEACHER EVER. Our son started acting out…clearly bored. Sadly we had the WTE for a second year due to classroom sharing in our tiny school. By year two our son was crushed…hated school…was being constantly punished which meant he missed out on all the fun things the class did and only sat through the reading lessons and math, too, which were way below his levels. At one meeting with a whole group of very intimidating school employees I brought up to the teacher how his kindergarten teacher had kept him busy with more level appropriate work. Her answer? “I don’t have time to teach every child separately. He is going to have to sit there nicely and wait for the other kids to catch up.” He was reading at a 7th grade level. She expected him to sit and learn nothing for 5 years? It is unfortunate that this was my first child and I did not yet have the courage to advocate as I should. Although we did one thing right…we pulled him out and homeschooled him for awhile until we found a charter school that better suited him. So this very long story is to say that had our oldest had AR and AM, school would have been very different for him. He could have moved at his own pace and not sat listening to kids learn the alphabet when he had just read “Little House” books at home the night before. There has to be be an answer between that and reading logs. I don’t know what it is, but at least AR and AM were some sort of a step forward. Our youngest is in 4th grade now, advanced like his brother but on the autism spectrum. If he had had the same experience as his oldest brother he would be in a much worse place than he is.

  2. I had to do AR in middle school and hated it. I got so mad that some books were worth so many points and some were worth squat. We didn’t set our own goals, we just had to earn x points per period. There were several times where I informed my Mom I wasn’t going to meet the goal because I couldn’t find books I enjoyed to get the points. I showed her everything I had been reading and she was satisfied with that. My grade dropped some, but I didn’t care. Thankfully my Mom didn’t either! I HATED AR stuff.

  3. Tori Raiguel

    Amen Renee! Well said. We have struggled with this since my kids went back into public school and it makes me crazy.

  4. Sally Saur

    I am not a fan of reading logs. I think they get filled in to satisfy the teacher. I do support Accelerated Reader. I have been teaching for 32 years at three different grade levels, predominately sixth grade. Out of 26 students, I could count on about six to have caught the reading bug. I have been an avid reader my entire life and couldn’t imagine why someone wouldn’t want to read. Television, after school sports, and computer games are stiff competition for a teacher trying to sell kids on reading. I found Accelerated Reader created readers. Perhaps it was the computer, perhaps it was the prizes I offered….I don’t know. I just know that about two months into the year using Accelerated Reader, I had students sharing books and suggesting titles….I had students asking if they could read ahead in a novel we were reading……I had students telling me about their latest books…..I had students who begged to go to the library before school started. This winter I took a job teaching third grade during a young teacher’s maternity leave. There are 28 students in my class. Two were “readers” when I arrived. I introduced Accelerated Reader and helped the class find books that were at their independent reading level. I now have 25 “readers” who love books and ask for more time to read. (Darn — I am still working on those other three!) These kids talk about books, have opinions about books and inspired to write as well as read! I see confident children who are so proud of their reading ability. I hear parents comment that their child really loves reading this year. Wow! No, Accelerated Reader isn’t for every child, but I am pretty proud of my 89% success rate of getting 8 year olds to enjoy reading.

    • I am THRILLED that you have had a great experience with AR. And I hope it goes without saying I think you are one of the best teachers out there (literally). However, it has been (and continues to be) a real deterrent to my kids. All of my kids (with exception of the two with special needs) entered school as avid readers, so that may contribute to my feelings. I just really hate seeing my kids choose their books based on an AR level or how many points they are going to get. Especially when I see them turn away from other books (such as the ones I get to review) or say, “I want to read such-and-such a book but it doesn’t have enough AR points”.

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