While in my ideal world children would be thrilled at the prospect of being allowed to read in school for extended periods of time, for those who find reading challenging this can be a virtually impossible task. Incentives are required to address their lack of interest, or to encourage students to try something a little more taxing.
This is only the second year that we have signed up to use the Accelerated Reader package at work, and this time around it’s good to feel a little more familiar with the format.
The premise of the package is simple. Pupils are tested at the start of the year on their ability to contextualise words and to show understanding of a passage of text. This information is then used to identify their reading age and a ZPD (or range of recommended reading material). From this, they are then set a target number of points to accrue over a term, which is based on them reading for a specified number of minutes a day. Whenever they finish a book, they complete a short quiz.
For some, this has been a great incentive to get reading and develop their interests (or at least pass quizzes so they can collect for our school reward system). For others, I can almost hear the tortured breathing as they watch the clock and count down the minutes until they are free to do something they consider useful.
As someone who reads avidly, I love the idea that students can be encouraged to develop their reading habits and that they are encouraged to try new writers/more challenging material. However, this year’s work has made it abundantly clear to me that this package is nothing more than a tool for dedicated librarians/staff/parents to use in order to nurture readers. Without people talking about books, talking about their interests and creating an environment where students see the value placed on reading this could quickly become nothing more than a gimmick.
There’s no quick fix to the issue of developing children’s literacy levels, but I do feel that helping them to become confident independent readers goes a long way towards this.