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Parents Guide to AR Books and Tests: What is Accelerated Reader?
Many parents are initially confused when their kids come home talking about the AR books they checked out of the school library or AR tests they took at school on a given day. Here are the basics of Accelerated Reader (AR), ZPD, and those pesky little tests!
The Basics of AR
What is AR? It's short for Accelerated Reader, a reading program designed to get students reading books at an optimum level for advancement based on their tested reading level. The level assignment helps kids choose the right books and the tests provide feedback on the student's progress.
AR books are evaluated and assigned a reading level and corresponding points depending on the level of difficulty of the sentences and vocabulary and the length of the book. There are quizzes written for each book and sold to schools by various vendors. Many schools have several hundred to over 10,000 AR quizzes.
How Kids Use AR
Students are tested and receive a ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) score. The ZPD determines the level of book the child should read in order to improve reading skills. The numbers correspond to grade level and month. For example, a second grader may have a ZPD of 3.2 - 4.1. This means the child should be reading at a third grade, second month level up to a fourth grade, first month level. It's handy for parents to be able to check the label on the book to see if a book is within the child's assigned level.
Kids are also sometimes given a goal of a number of points to accumulate. Kids select AR books that meets their criteria of points and reading level, read it, and take a quiz. The computerized tests have 5-20 questions designed to evaluate the student's comprehension. Points are determined based on the student's score as well as the book's possible points.
As of 2006, Renaissance Learning had categorized approximately 100,000 books into the AR system with quizzes written for each. About 10,000 are planned to be added each year. According to IntraData, Inc., over half of American schools are using Accelerated Reader. The program is even becoming a factor in children's book publishing. Many school librarians will not purchase book for which no quiz is available. There is pressure to get books approved before going to print.
While it may be a great way to get students to read, many librarians object to the use of points to motivate children to read. Also, finding books based on the child's interest, as opposed to level and points, proves to be a challenge.
Next time your child comes home to tell you about his AR tests, you'll know what he's talking about!