The Point Game

Found this article today, published in the New York Times a few weeks back. It's about the Accelerated Reader Program, and I think it makes some good points. Both of my children go to schools that use Accelerated Reader, and, I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about it myself.

On the one hand, I think anything that promotes kids' interest in books is a good thing. AR, through its point system, gives kids reading goals to work toward, and at both my kids' schools, meeting those goals is rewarded at the end of the year. It's a big deal to get an AR award, and, after growing up in a school system in which only athletic achievements garnered attention, I think that's a wonderful thing.

On the other hand, however, I remember as a kid having a stack of my favorite books, and reading them over and over until they were dog-eared and falling apart. They were dear to me, priceless even. Some of them I still have, all these years later, and every time I look at them on the book shelf I'm 7 years old again, reading on a drowsy summer afternoon.

My kids have the same habits, but with AR in the picture, I can't allow them to follow their natural reading instincts. In order to get the points, they have to stay on reading level, constantly read new things, and rush through books in order to get the required points by the end of the grading period. There is no lingering over a beloved book. There is no rereading. There is only the numbers, and what the numbers can get you. In some ways it turns reading into a chore, something else to be checked off on the homework page. Reading isn't an escape for them - it's becoming part of the grind. We can't even have a break in the summer, as both schools now have a "Summer AR" program.

I'm still of a dual-mind about the whole thing. As I said, I think anything that encourages kids to read, to discover new authors and to broaden their horizons has merit. But to turn it into something quantitative, something to be measured and compared and reduced to a data set for the gratification of schools...that just seems fundamentally flawed.

10 September 2009


The Persistence of Vision - Wordpress Themes is proudly powered by WordPress and themed by Mukkamu Templates Novo Blogger