Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Accelerated Reader and Other Reading Programs

As reading promoters, librarians want students to develop an enjoyable reading habit. Preconditions for such habits include the ability to read, access to reading materials, opportunities to read, and the motivation to read.  Some of that motivation is internal such as the students’ areas of interest – and the opportunity to choose what to read, and some is external such as grades or other positive reinforcements. And some motivation is social as in opportunities to share reading experiences with trusted people, including suggestions for good reading. The more that students are successfully engaged in reading, and the more they read, the more likely that they will build good reading habits. Librarians can help students develop those good reading habits by providing students with access to interesting reading material at an appropriate reading level. And the more that librarians establish positive and knowledgeable relationships with students, the better the collection and the more successful their readers’ advice. Here are some research-based findings.

De Naeghel, J., Van Keer, H., & Vanderlinde, R. (2014). Strategies for promoting autonomous reading motivation: A multiple case study research in primary education. Frontline Learning Research, 2(1), 83-101.
Practices that increase reading include supporting autonomous reading, reading aloud, and establishing a school culture that supports reading.

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2018). Raise reading volume through access, choice, discussion, and book talks. Reading Teacher, 72(1), 89-97.
Factors for increasing reading include exposure to print materials, out-of-school reading (volume and amount of time),  access, choice, discussion, and book talks.

Husband, T. (2014). Increasing reading engagement in African American boys. Multicultural Learning and Teaching, 9(2), 157-170.
Factors contributing to reading engagement include choice, real-world connections, scaffolding, personal interests, collaboration.

Springer, S. E., Harris, S., & Dole, J. A. (2017). From surviving to thriving: Four research-based principles to build students' reading interest. Reading Teacher, 71(1), 43-50.
Four research-based principles of reading interest were identified: individual interests, situational interest, text-based interest, and interest regulation. Good strategies include self-choice, talking with peers, and highlighted relevance.

Williams, L. M., & McDaniel, L. (2017). Peer-recommended books: Conduits to increase reading volume. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 53(2), 76-79.
Using strategies that provide opportunities for students to interact and recommend books in authentic ways, teachers can help motivate them to want to read more.

It should be noted that technology can help motivate students in several aspects: social media to share reading experience, convenient ebooks, differentiated reading interface to ease reading processes, programs that can adjust reading level, and the cool factor of reading online. (Conradi, K. (2014). Tapping Technology's Potential to Motivate Readers. Phi Delta Kappan, 96(3), 54-57.)
How do digital reading programs impact reading habits? Accelerated Reader (AR) is the most popular reading monitoring program. It assesses students’ interests, matches students’ reading level, matches available books with the students’ interests and reading ability, and then tests the students’ reading comprehension (which can serve as a motivator). AR also maintains a database of each student’s reading information, which helps teachers assess students’ progressive performance. Other similar reading programs include Book Bug, Book BINGO, ReadnQuiz, WBA Strategy, among others. Its biggest deficiency is the social aspect. Most empirical studies showed no or some positive effect. Here are sample studies.

Baye, A., Lake, C., Inns, A., & Slavin, R. (2016). Effective reading programs for secondary students. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University School of Education’s Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education. http://www.bestevidence.org/word/secondary-reading-08-03-17.pdf
This review of experimental research on secondary reading programs found that individual and small-group tutoring, cooperative learning, and social-emotional approaches helped readers, as did a few programs that emphasized technology or taught metacognitive schools. Benchmarking assessment and giving extra time did not make a difference. Secondary readers benefit from engaging and personalized instruction.

Clark, C., & Cunningham, A. (2016). Reading enjoyment, behaviour and attitudes in pupils who use Accelerated Reader. National Literacy Trust. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED570684.pdf
Compared to the control group of British primary children, of those using AR more enjoyed reading and read frequently. However, reading enjoyment was the key factor in positive reading behavior, regardless of AR.

Gorard, S., Siddiqui, N., & See, B. (2015). Accelerated Reader: Evaluation Report and Executive Summary. Education Endowment Foundation. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED581101.pdf
Key conclusions from the evaluation of middle school students in London are: (1) Accelerated Reader appears to be effective for weaker readers as a catch-up intervention at the start of secondary school; (2) A well-stocked library with a wide collection of books banded according to the Accelerated Reader readability formula, and easy access to computers with internet connection, are the main requirements for successful implementation; (3) Pupils at very low levels of reading may not be independent readers and would need initial support from teacher to start reading books; and (4) Schools can lead robust evaluations of their own planned interventions, under favorable circumstances, and with some advice and oversight from expert evaluators.

Johnson, D. (2017). Teacher characteristics and effective implementation of the Accelerated Reader program, as reported by teachers of African American students. Doctoral dissertation, Oakland University.
For three elementary-middle schools, the results of the study indicated teacher characteristics of education level, years of teaching experience at the same grade, and AR training and years of use positively impacted students’ reading achievement scores.

AR continues to be examined by librarians and other educators in their practice, as seen here.

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