For the past two weeks, I have been reading research on a much debated subject among educators - Accelerated Reader, also known as AR. I have read page after page of research, blog posts, and articles. I even stayed up until 1:00 on a school night immersing myself in this topic.
Why? I am very much against AR for many reasons, but I want to have conversations with the teachers who support it and the decision makers in my school district. Thanks to Pernille Ripp and Donalyn Miller and their session at Nerdcamp in Michigan last summer, I have requested an opportunity to open the discussion about AR. I want to be prepared with research to back up my beliefs. I want to have counterpoints to their points. My mission is to protect the love of reading in my classroom, and I cannot just talk from my heart.
But sometimes I reach a point where I start doubting my beliefs. I start asking, "Are they right? Am I wrong?"
This week I had three incidents in my classroom that helped me put those thoughts back into perspective.
One of my students finished reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone this week. He came into my class complaining because he could not take an AR test on it and wanted to know why. I explained to him that he could not take a test on a book he has already read. He said he had not read the book "this year."
When I explained to him that the books he read in elementary school follow him to the middle school, he replied, "You mean I read that book for nothing?"
I said, "Did you enjoy the book?"
He nodded his head yes, and I replied, "That is what matters the most."
A co-worker's third grade daughter came into school proudly announcing, "I met my AR goal and made the 100 point club today, and now I don't have to read anymore."
My heart sank. I know she is a reader because I share books from my classroom library with her, and I know she will continue to read. But this attitude towards reading is prevalent in so many of our students.
Last week I started book clubs with my students, and today was our first Discussion Day. In one of my classes, we discussed what worked and what didn't work. One student who has become a reader this year said, "We talked about the book and asked questions about the confusing parts. It was fun!"
I stopped him right there and told him that he had just made my day. That is what reading is all about. No points, no incentives, no tests...just reading for fun.
Maybe I should stop reading the research. Maybe I should pay more attention to the research right inside my own classroom.