Monday, June 16, 2008


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.


Carol said...

I've been hearing more and more about this AR frenzy lately, and it kind of freaks me out. We do utilize the AR program at Brady, but we're pretty chill about it. I think 835.9 points = the top ten Brady reader points combined.

Longtime reader, first time commenter.

PS: In an effort to combat my creepy lurker status, I invite you to read/ridicule my blog.

Erin the Librarian said...

There are sooo many things for me to comment on in this posting that I don't even know what to say. I guess I'll start with what I saw first. When I saw "835.9" I thought, hmmm, Mechelle is posting about a Dewey Decimal number, how cool. I even knew that 835.9 would be in the literature section. After looking up the exact number, I see that this number would fall under German speeches, of which I'm pretty sure we have nothing in that section of our library.

Ok, so then I saw that we were talking about AR. I happened to miss that happy ad this week, but I am going to look at it when I get to work today.

AR bothers me on many levels. The fact that it bothers me even bothers me, as I used AR in grade school and it was done very well. While we were encouraged to participate and rewarded for doing well, the competition thing was totally downplayed.

As a public librarian, it drives me crazy when parents come in and refuse to let their kids check out books that do not qualify for AR points. Many times these kids are the ones who don't like to read. So...if they find something that is interesting to them on our shelves, whoo hoo!!! Let them take it!

I could go on and on about all the things I've seen that make AR so crazy, but I won't. I do have one mroe comment: The mother that claims she got information about another kids library books from my staff is lying. She tried at least 3 times to get access to his library card information and was denied each time. My staff reported each incident to me and they all acted according to policy, which is to tell nothing. They didn't even bend when the child's teacher came in wanting the information. Stop spreading rumors about us, crazy AR lady. We know our patron privacy rights.

abby said...

*clap clap clap clap clap*

Stupid Ar.

Lisa Greenfelder said...

At the risk of sounding braggy... My parental highlight was when my eldest said "Mom, I can't read this book for ar because it's outside my level. Can I read it just 'cause I like it?" Why yes, (big sigh, smile warm fuzzy mom feeling), "honey, that's the best reason in the world to read"
The second best reason is to get to hang out with the cool girls at book club and drink wine! :)

Mechelle said...

I'm so glad others feel that AR can be used poorly, I wish they would abandon it all together but with all the money already invested in the program that is unlikely to ever happen.

Thanks for the invite Carol and you are not creepy, a lurker maybe, but geez not creepy.

Mary Stoinski said...

Ok I'm not Mary - just a crazy lurker (Meredith). I deal with AR as both a teacher and a parent. It bites bigger than the big one. My older students hate to be forced to read for "AR" and I as a teacher am told I am not doing my job if they are not taking a certain amount of tests. Forget that they do book reports and actually have to discuss the craft of writing and the author's intention and do creative art type things with the book - they damn well better be able to take a ten question multiple guess test on the book!!! And don't even get me started about the "reading levels" - did you know that "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a 5th grade book according to AR? I wouldn't allow my soon to be 3rd grader to read it - although he may not have a choice since it a book in his "range" and he MUST read something!!!! DOWN WITH AR.

Kim said...

Great post. I had no idea it was such a big deal...when my oldest 2 girls were in elem school for a couple of years before we began homeschooling, I remember both of them doing well in AR...I think my oldest won an award one year, but I had no idea it has become so silly! As a past elem teacher, I can't see pushing it that much...I'd much rather the children love to read and love to learn, not basing it on a lose/win scenario.