Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Judy Blume’s comments on Accelerated Reader

I love it when I hear from teachers that they've read the Fudge books aloud to their kids and how this has started kids on the path to wanting to read. "I want more funny books. Who else writes funny books like this?" There are certainly many, many, many wonderful books to recommend. I love to hear that they can use a book like Blubber or another one of my books in the classroom and that this works. Or guide a child who may be in need of a book about a certain subject to that book.
What I don't like and what I really don't like — intensely hate, you could say — is the Accelerated Reader program, even though many of my books are in that program, because they rate books, not on emotional content or emotional readiness. They're rated by machine — how many words in a sentence, how long is a paragraph. Nothing to do with character, nothing to do with subject and again, nothing to do with emotional readiness. So that a book like Then Again, Maybe I Won't may have fourth reading level. I get letters from angry parents who say, "My child read your book in Accelerated Reader," and that's a terrible thing.
"He wasn't ready. He's reading on a fourth grade level, but he's only in second grade." Well, what do I say? I try to explain this and I encourage the parent to go to the school and explain why Accelerated Reader doesn't work. It's an easy way for a teacher to run a reading program. It's not the way I think, it's not the way that I would hope that a teacher would run a reading program. Don't take the easy way out, I would say to teachers.
Another thing that I think is that kids shouldn't be penalized for reading a book that's rated younger then what their reading level is supposed to be, nor should they be prevented from reading way beyond. They should be encouraged to just read and if they're reading a picture book and they're in fifth grade because they really want to read this picture book or it's funny, why not?
What's wrong with that? They will read more widely if we allow them to and we encourage them to and we don't reward them for how many books they've read, so that they'll read more books that are short than one book that's long, that's not what it's about.


hat tip > California librarian Robert Joyce


  1. Don't get me started on how much I despise AR in spite of working in a school in which AR reigns supreme. Among other abominations is that students learn to value books because of the point value instead of anything intrinsic about the book. It broke my heart last week when a girl told me that she loved Faith Erin Hicks' Friends With Boys. . . until she found out that it was only worth one point.

  2. As a library media specialist with more years experience than I care to admit.... I HATE AR. It goes against EVERYTHING I learned about getting kids to read. There is NO statistical evidence that it improves reading for the average or above average reader.

  3. Everything is based on scores and data to show teachers are doing their job, not showing what is best for kids. Trying to run schools like a business isn't best. Bitch Betsy DeVos is a very poor leader, and it's going to get worse under her reign.

    1. Sorry...A.R. was around long before Ms. DeVos.

    2. Wow! Resorting to name-calling is immaturity at its worst. AR has been around for at least three decades. You're going to have to go back in time to determine who deserves your anger, unless you're a parent who stood up to the program when your child was enrolled.

  4. AR killed my son's joy of reading. He loved books and reading when he was younger. We always read before going to bed. He was reading independently before he started Kindergarten. But then he was introduced to AR. He read way above his grade level but he is not a fast reader. It only takes one reading and he will remember the details and the story. The points, the deadlines, the quizzes, all of it turned reading into a chore instead of an enjoyable activity. To this day, and he is now out of high school, he resists reading. I blame AR and the negative connotations it places on the act of reading.

  5. I no longer use the AR program, but when I did, I saw progress in most of my students. I used many ways to introduce them to books, but AR created an expectation that children would read and they did. Many, many students have told me they might never have learned to read well without AR. When our district got rid of it, a whole group of 20-year-olds wrote a protest. I occasionally hear,"I hated it then, but it made me become a fluent reader and I hope my kids use it". Some teachers managed the program wrong, or were too inflexible, but my colleagues and I had much success. We saw a drastic change in our students' reading habits once it was gone. Years of creating a thriving reading culture disappeared within a couple years. Was it perfect? No, but kids knew they had to read and did so. Kids would discuss and recommend books daily. Now, they don't read much no matter how many books I showcase or recommend. Some refuse to read at all. I make them keep logs, but parents will sign a month at a time so they just fill in whatever amount they please. Their learning shows they are not reading as they should, but it is so difficult to get them hooked. By the way, AR is not easy if done right. It takes large amount of time for monitoring, data entry, and personal interaction with students to work correctly. I have always worked hard to sell kids on books, but not that many are taking advantage of it now that they no longer have to pass a test.

    1. Thank you, in the middle. You said it perfectly.

  6. Not a fan! My kids have learned to "beat the system." My daughter even knows to skew her STAR test on the vocabulary portion to get a lower level so that she is "allowed" to red the books she enjoys. My 2nd grade son on 6th grade level hates it, because there are no books for him in his building, the books on his level -he doesn't enjoy. He has shut down. He hates reading now.

  7. The problem here has nothing to do with Accelerated Reader. Let me say that again, "The problem here has nothing to do with Accelerated Reader!" The problem lies solely with educators who are not trained in the program nor are using the program with fidelity. The zone of proximal development is designed to be a range and places a low end reading level to be a book level average. With that said, students can read both below and above the ZPD, as long a they maintain an average book level of the low end. As for the points, too many teachers over emphasis the point goal. If you are using the program as it was designed there are three goals that need to be maintained and the points goal is just one of them. That comes along on its own as the student reads. More over, the emphasis is placed on Word Count. Research states if a student reads a million words in a 12 month period he or she will grow one to two grade levels in reading. That is where the emphasis is based not on points. Likewise, interest levels need to be taken into consideration. Book level with interest level is where it is at.

  8. Accelerated reader is a great way to get kids reading! I have watched reluctant readers enter my classroom and leave with great improvement. I don't care what they read. If they read up all the little books,eventually they have to pick the harder ones. Judy Blume is an amazing author but she isn't teaching in today's classrooms where kids just don't want to read books any more.

  9. This book could be useful in middle or high school, for teaching students about the effects that bullying can have.

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