The Reading Capital of America

Akron, Ohio is challenging Tifton, Georgia for the title of Reading Capital of America. As Number 2 Pencil observes, Tifton got its start by buying Accelerated Reader, which lets students earn points for reading books and answering computerized comprehension tests.

The simplest books start at half a point; War and Peace is worth 130 points.

(Librarian Terri) Nalls hoped the students in her school might pass 1,000 tests in the first year.

“They passed 1,000 tests the first month,” she said.

There was something about the immediate feedback of the test and the sense of self-challenge that took hold. Children began coming to school early to read. They took extra books home. A first-grader who’d had behavior problems got hooked on Accelerated Reader. After his sixth test in one day, he turned to Nalls, smiled and said, “I thought I couldn’t read.”

Library usage has soared in Tifton.

I’ve heard very good things about Accelerated Reader from teachers.

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  1. My son thrived as a second and third grader with the competition of earning points and rewards driving his urge to read. Sadly the school thought it not worthwhile for 4th graders and above, and his interest in reading waned… it was boring.

    He’s in 7th grade now and I long for the days when he made extra time to read, instead of finding excuses NOT to read. Count me as an Accelerated Reader supporter. And if anyone has suggestions on how to get an active, athletic 7th grade boy to enjoy reading again….. I’m all ears.

  2. 1. Good luck, Akron. I used to live near Akron and the schools there need all support they can get. The city schools in Ohio are terrible.

    2. My last year of Accelerated Reader was in Grade 7. I loved it, as I prefered reading to boring worksheets and insultingly stupid xeroxes made up by some hack that took all the fun out of a book. Hell, I still prefer to read than do my assignments for my university classes.

  3. AR are CAN be a good motivator. Not for all students. I have had some students where it has actually taken the fun out of reading, they didn’t like the pressure.

    I have found that those really great readers don’t like AR because they find it too confining, they must read between certain levels (AR has taken steps to improve this last year). These readers, however, are going to read whether there are points there or not.

    Initially, parents are confused by AR and at time it can be difficult to explain. That’s why I set up an AR page to help explain some of the specifics of it.

    There are good things and bad things about the program. I like it. The kids in my class over the past two years have loved it, however this year, they aren’t motivated by it at all. It has been like pulling teeth.

  4. I don’t know A.R. worrks, but it does.

    The results are rather dramatic.

  5. Texas Reader says:

    All three of my children did AR through elementary. It didn’t help the older two, who are avid readers and had already surpassed the reading level of the program. The youngest, a boy, was forced to start reading books at his grade level and it did make him read topics he normally would not look at. To work, the child needs to care about the points, awards, etc.

    What got my son reading was Harry Potter. On tape and the book. I discovered he had a problem reading and comprehending at the same time. By reading while listening, his reading now has taken off. He actually reads every night now, and other things than Harry Potter.

  6. I have mixed feelings about AR. We never heard of it until we moved to Texas. My oldest child was already an avid reader and the AR program was just boring for her. Luckily the teachers recognized this and she was not stuck in the program. My middle child never liked to read and now is an avid reader because of the competitive nature of the program. He is highly motivated by keeping ‘score’ and it has worked really well with him. Every month he gets an award from the librarian for the most points in his class, etc. The problem I have is that he doesn’t want to read anything that is not connected to the AR program and seems to be reading just to collect points. The good news is that Texas schools stress reading up through middle school, so perhaps he will begin reading just for the fun of it!

  7. My favorite (though slightly off point) comment about geogrpahical reading habits was the observation that for a good part of the 20th Century more books were written in Mississippi than were read there….

  8. Is there a way for homeschoolers (raises hand) to access the AR reading list and quizzes over the internet?

    (I might not find all responses here in comments, please mail me direct.)

  9. AR success depends a lot on how it is implemented. Some schools allow students great freedom to select books from all reading levels, while others are very regimented. My daughter enjoyed taking the quizzes, but I thought that it could easily suck the joy out of reading. Some schools make a big deal of the competition, while others keep it very low key. I found that many of the quizzes focused on the trees rather than the forest. Remembering specific details were more important than understanding the book as a whole. I felt that good readers learn to filter what they read, knowing some details are important to the story while others simply add texture, but I didn’t feel that the AR quizzes reflected that.

  10. This sounds a whole lot like a dreadful program I endured in 6th grade 40 years ago. Books were broken up into chapters. Read a chapter, take a multiple-choice test about it, then get issued the next little section.

    Main problem: I was reading 7th-grade science books for fun in 2nd grade. By 6th grade, I must have been better than most college students. (Not that I had the emotional development to appreciate most adult-level novels, but long-winded adventure story writers like Dumas were just right, if I could find them uncut.) These books were far below my level in the first place; the sections they handed out took me about 15 minutes. Then I had to look for the teacher to get the test, mark it up, and look for the teacher again to get it graded and get the next little section. It was much simpler just to smuggle in a paperback of “The Count of Monte Cristo”.

    Also, what “me” said about the tests true. Maybe at 11 years old I didn’t have a very good grasp of what was important enough to remember from the book, but it seemed like the test writers weren’t even trying to identify the important points.

  11. There is a website homeschoolers can use:
    sponsored by Sylvan and IRA


  1. Reading

    Yesterday Joanne Jacobs and Number 2 Pencil both had articles about a reading capital in America and program called Accelerated Reader. It sounds like the program motivates kids to read. The motivation comes from points scored by reading a book