I had to chuckle when I saw a happy ad in our local newspaper that announced the top Accelerated Reader for one of the elementary schools. The bragging parent posted a picture of said child along with the grand total of AR points he received and then proceeded to list all the family that was congratulating him. I thought it unfortunate that the score he received, 835.9, looked more like a diagnostic code from the DSM-IV rather than a school related achievement. Sadly the DSM-IV does not yet have a code that correlates to that specific number and I'm thinking maybe they should consider an additional area of classification.
Of course the parents that are obsessed (and that is putting it mildly) with their child's AR points could potentially fit into another category, such as personality disorders (possibly 301.81?), or even schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders (I'm thinking 297.1). But I really do believe that an entire new category needs to be researched and developed for parents that live so vicariously through their children that the meaning of their child's accomplishments plays a supreme role in their daily interactions with those around them.
Potential diagnostic examples:
1. A parent is so overwhelmed with the AR point race that he/she seeks out the leading child's public library record to determine if the child is listening to recorded books instead of reading the hard copy. The parent is convinced that the leading child is cheating and that his/her child has no chance of catching up unless the offended is caught.
2. A parent will not allow a child to check out or read books that are not eligible for an AR test. Everything the child does must be reflected in a positive light in the parent's life.
3. A parent physically pushes the parent of the winning child at the awards ceremony and calls the winning child a cheater. The parent cannot accept defeat and is still determined that his/her child should have been the winner.
Studies have shown that children exposed to the AR program in the elementary years actually find reading less enjoyable than those that did not experience such a method. When discussing the main merits of the program with those that believe in it, one of the main arguments always presented is that it teaches the child to enjoy reading. I find it difficult to believe when we pit our children against each other like starving cannibals that they enjoy the process. Especially when as parents we are promoting vicious behavior all in the name of education and creating lifelong readers.
It is okay if my child is not good at football, or tennis, or running. The ability to play and succeed at a sport is not a vital component of life, but reading is. The AR program is rubbish and when a school community is being pulled apart (because you better believe that the parents and children not involved in the ongoing dispute took a side) over points earned for reading books you would assume that those in positions to do so would evaluate the true intentions of their support for the AR program.