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Who Cares About A.R.?

Actually, I care.  I care a lot.  I know that, as a teacher, I am in the minority; in fact, almost all of the teachers that I know could care less about A.R., and I understand.  Most teachers feel like kids should read simply for the love of reading and not for points.  Most teachers also love to read.  I never have, so I will offer a different perspective.

I grew up loving math.  I loved (and still do) puzzles and brain teasers.  I like logic, and most of the time I don't even bother using a calculator.  I can calculate in my head how much I will pay when I'm out shopping, and figuring out a tip on my bill at a restaurant is incredibly simple for me.  I have always been left-brained.

I didn't like to read.  I was a good reader, actually, and was always put in the advanced reading group.  I could pronounce any word I found, so I could read the words of any book that was put in front of me.  But, I struggled with vocabulary, comprehension, and symbolism, especially as I entered middle and high school.  I read books that I was required to read, but if I wasn't interested in the book (which was most of the time), I struggled with remembering what I had read.  Even now, I am not a big reader.

As a teacher, however, I don't care as much for teaching math (unless it is a really advanced math class).  Math concepts come so easily to me and make so much sense that it is hard for me to understand how a child could not understand something that I showed them.  I am always working hard to find other ways to teach math so that students can learn those concepts.

In contrast, I absolutely LOVE teaching reading and writing.  I love getting kids excited about reading. I love the huge selection and variety of children's and young adult books out there.  I love reading aloud to my students and making the book come alive.  I also love and promote A.R. in my classroom and require my students to set A.R. goals for themselves.

I understand that many kids dislike reading - especially those who struggle with reading comprehension and fluency.  I get why kids always need to go to the bathroom during reading and who will do anything to get out of having to read.  Those are the ones who need to read the most, and the only way they can be better readers is to read.  I understand them because I was one of those kids.

As much as we hope that kids will read simply for the love of it and not worry about whether a book is A.R. or not or how many points a book is, the reality is that many just don't like it, no matter how much we tell them that they should and it's "fun."  It doesn't change the fact that they still need to read.  So, what's a teacher to do other than require them to read and hope that one day they will just naturally decide that they love it and will read without being asked?

I say that we should introduce a little competition or incentive.  I am an incredibly competitive person, and I know that many kids are as well.  I like them to think of A.R. points as a sport or challenge that they can meet.  We now have access to all A.R. tests at our school, so most books that they read are A.R.  And if kids read books only because they can earn more points, who cares?  At least they are reading, and isn't that the goal, anyway?  By reading (even if it's for A.R. points), kids will improve their reading fluency and comprehension in the process, and once reading becomes easier or they find a genre or series they like in the process, they may decide they love reading and will end up reading because they love it.

I have seen this happen many, many times in my fifteen years of teaching.  Parents have told me that their kids have never loved reading more than after being in my class.  There is no greater joy as a teacher to hear that I have made a difference, and encouraging students to read A.R. books is why many kids (like I was) like reading more than when they started.

I will get off of my soapbox now.  How do YOU feel about A.R.?  Are you a reading lover?  Do you love teaching reading?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Now this is interesting! I have always been against AR until this year (probably because I was a reader all my life) Our school does not do AR. This year, however, I have a class of non-readers - ask them to read and they will find ANY excuse in the book to get out of it. So I looked at AR again - we're still not doing it but I've become more positive about it and would like to try it - no go at the moment with admin. This term I did a self-selected genre bingo (found on TpT) and that's getting some of them interested (well, the prizes are!) and I'd love to get a bit more competition going. As you say, if that gets them to read, who cares? I just want them to read :)

    1. The self-selected genre bingo sounds like a great idea! I'm glad you're becoming more positive about it. I have seen AR turn many non-readers into readers, and it's a great feeling! Good luck!

  2. I am working on my AR attitude:) Our district does AR in every school 2nd grade and up. I have been teaching first grade so my only interaction with AR was as a parent. My gifted son HATED reading and taking tests, there were no prizes and it didn't count toward his grade so he failed the initial STAR test so his reading level would be low and then he could get away with reading low level texts. It was a terrible cycle for many years, so I was not a fan. Anyway...our daughter LOVES to read and AR was her friend. So as a parent we have had both extremes. This year I volunteered to go to 2nd grade and therefore, AR became part of my curriculum. My kids are like reading maniacs. I have one little guy who became quickly obsessed with adding points and it has spread all over the room. I have to make them put away the books they are sneak-reading so I can teach. It is really changing my AR attitude. Thanks for posting this and for letting me go on and on!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your story! I have taught so many gifted students who haven't liked to read. Sometimes, it can still be a struggle to get those reluctant readers to read more, even with incentives. My students are encouraged to read all the time, but we compete as a class and almost every single year my class earns the most AR points in the school. I reward them by doing something special for them every time our class earns 1000 points. We are almost at 3,000 now, and they will get a pizza party. It is really getting them so excited and it unites us as a team. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi, Jennifer! I'm your newest follower! I also teach in GA -3rd grade! I push AR with some students more than others. It just depends how they react to it. I'm scared I'll turn a kid off from reading by pushing it too hard, but I do have high expectations for them. Check out my blog. I recently made a post about how I literally tripled my number of tests in a week with a simple cut out design. Sort of your incentive idea...
    Tab -- Merry Christmas!

  4. I use AR. It is a quick and easy way for me to track my monthly reading requirement. Students gets credit for their monthly free reading requirement by finishing a book and taking an associated AR quiz. If I didn't have AR, I would need some sort of assessment of free reading books in my room, which would add to my workload. I like using the STAR test to give me a reading range for my students (even though I know students can read a little above or below the reading range, and it is not the final word in what a student is capable of reading). I have incentives for reading built in too, and my kids leave my room loving books (most of them).