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Mette's Famous AR Rant

Have I said before that I hate the Accelerated Reader program?

I hate that my children come to my library of thousands of the newest children's books and have only one question to ask me about a book that I recommend, "Is there an AR test?"

I hate that schools have to pay $3 for every new test on a book that they want to have a test on in their library.

I hate that children are being taught that reading is all about getting a test score, and that if they don't read a book "well enough" according to someone else's arbitrary standard, that they will get a bad grade.

I hate that teachers don't have to read book reports anymore. And that students don't have to write them. The old fashioned book report was the perfect way to yoke reading and writing together. It showed comprehension and allowed creativity. Yeah, kids hated it. So what?

I hate that my son doesn't get credit for reading Calvin and Hobbes or the Starcraft manual or the Pokemon cards that he taught himself to read from, because he wanted to. Or the newspaper or a hundred other ways of reading that aren't traditional. What happened to the old system of counting up how much time you spent reading? That was cheap and it allowed any kind of reading your kid wanted.

I hate that kids who read below grade level are forced to pick out a different color dot book than their friends and made to feel stupid publicly.

I hate that a girl in first grade who reads on a sixth grade level is told she can't read Magic Tree House books because they're too "easy" for her, and she should be reading my book "The Monster In Me" instead. My book is a wonderful book, but it is not written for a first grader, no matter what label they put on it according to sentence length.

I hate that the pool of books that children have access to seems to be getting smaller rather than larger.

I hate that school library money is being spent on something other than books.

I hate that a teacher feels that she has the right to tell me what my daughter should be reading. A recommendation is one thing. Insisitence is another.

I hate that reading has become a chore instead of a dessert, that kids don't get to automatically browse through the shelves of their teacher's library when they are finished with their other work, pick out a delicious book, and devour it all at once, never thinking about anything else but the pleasure of it.

I hate that teachers don't read out loud anymore (although maybe this is the fault of NCLB rather than just AR, though they feel connected to me).

I hate that poetry is hardly ever heard in classrooms anymore, and that Shel Silverstein's Where The Sidewalk Ends is never checked out of libraries anymore.

I hate that I have to argue with teachers at the beginning of every school year about the AR program and why it isn't right for my kids.

I hate that I get an exception for my kids sometimes and other parents don't know enough to fight for theirs.

Yes, I know there are some students that the AR program serves. Some. But mostly it seems to me that this program was developed so that educators have something to show parents, some hard evidence that students are "improving."

Look, parents, you know if your kids are improving. You know what books are on their level. You should be reading to them every day and sharing books that you loved with them. That's the way to get them to improve.

Show them that you read. Let them find you hidden away, reading for pleasure. Tell them that "this book" is for when they're older, and then leave it lying there for them to pick up.

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Copyright Mette Ivie Harrison 2011 all rights reserved.
Last revised January 24, 2011.