Because of recent changes in the way AR operates, my school has decided not to support the program. We can continue to use it until a problem arises, but there won’t be any tech support. I’ve decided to abandon it altogether and just go cold turkey into a new year without AR. Why do I feel like I’m jumping off a cliff into unknown waters, not just changing my reading program?
Tomorrow is the first day of school. I wonder what my students will think when I announce that we will not be using AR this year? I can just imagine their shocked faces. No AR???? Some will stand up and cheer, but others will feel lost without the program. I have similar mixed feelings. On the one hand, I know that the AR program does not produce joyous readers. On the other hand, I’ve found it to be a useful tool for tracking reading progress. It does get results, but at what cost? Face it - how many adults would enjoy reading if we knew we had to pass a test after finishing each book?
Luckily, I just finished reading a wonderful book called The Book Whisperer that will help me make sense of my decision to abandon AR completely. The author, Donalyn Miller, would probably be horrified that I found any value whatsoever in AR! She uses a “reading workshop” approach to deliver instruction, and passionately advocates for student choice in reading. She believes that to become better readers, students need to read more during the school day and become engaged with their texts in meaningful ways.
I guess in my heart of hearts I’ve known for a long time that AR was nothing more than a security blanket. It was an easy system for tracking progress, but it didn’t do much to foster a lifelong passion for reading. Promoting the joy of reading is a worthy goal; however, in today’s climate of accountability, it’s also important for students to perform well on standardized tests.
This year I’m on a mission to do both - promote the joy of reading AND increase reading achievement. I hope to inspire my students to grow as readers, challenging them to tackle increasingly difficult texts and a variety of genres. We’ll establish a climate where independent reading time is treasured and student choice is respected. I’ll create mini-lessons to teach skills, but mostly I’ll encourage my students to read, read, read!
AR won’t have a place in my classroom this year. It’s past time for me and my students to grow up and leave that security blanket behind!