Let me start by saying we love AR at our house. Cadence loves to read and loves tests. What more could you ask for? Plus, she loves to meet goals, and get cool prizes. Who doesn't?! I love that I get to see whether she's actually paying attention to what she's reading or just skimming, without having to read the book myself. But AR is a sort of mixed bag. It can be useful, even fun, but it can also backfire.
It's already started around here. As soon as a goal was set, it became more important to 'meet the goal!' than to read for any other reason. Cadence was reading this book about the Constitution just for fun, and I was pleased as punch. It was meeting a Social Studies need, she was enjoying it, it was challenging for her to read (something we struggle to find), life was grand. But... it doesn't have an AR test. So I had to make her stop reading a great book, that she was learning a lot from, to read something she didn't enjoy as much - and certainly wasn't challenged in any way by - so she could take a test over it and meet her goal for the week.
It also sort of stops the momentum, when you find a great series and have to stop and take a test instead of just... reading.
I've heard from other parents who have been struggling recently too. Their kid loves to read, but their goal was so outrageously high they decided to bomb their next reading test to get a lower goal. Or their kid used to love reading, but AR has killed it for them because they can only read books in a specific reading level, instead of books they love. Or the series they are in the middle of is so l.o.n.g. they can't finish it in time to meet their goal - even though the book is worth so many points it would cover their goal AND the next quarter's goal - so they have to either stop reading it to read something else, or not meet their goal. Or maybe their kid is struggling with reading, and the AR tests on top of reading the book is just too much and killing any desire they might have started to have for reading.
I get it, I do. It's nice to see if they are actually comprehending what they are reading, or just skimming, or so focused on the act of reading they can't really take in the meaning of what they are reading. I like it because I don't have to read the book myself to ask questions to see if she's actually paying attention to what she reads. I also like it because I like keeping track of things and seeing her meet goals. But it's so important to be careful not to let the points and the goals take over and become the most important part of a reading program!
What do you think? Have you had any experience with AR? Do you like it? Is there anything you would change about it at your school?