There was another post, though, that was not about finding the just-right book. Instead, it was all about AR. It listed all of the arguments against using AR and then countered each argument with a "fact." Quite a few people lauded the post. A few questioned the use of AR. I moved on to another discussion of books for the first day of school. But I want to swing back to AR. I want to reiterate some facts of my own. They have appeared here before. Apparently, we need to talk about this from time to time. So, here goes.
1. Let's begin with the "research." I use quotes because the research is more than suspect. First, most of the research they cite has not a thing to do with the tests kids take. Instead, the research includes elements of AR that are not really part and parcel of the program. They are elements that can be part of ANY classroom. Reading aloud, book choice (but let's get back to that later, too), an environment that supports and encourages reading. There is NO research that shows that taking a 10 item quiz improves anything. As a matter of fact, it might just de-motivate a reader.
2. It narrows the books kids can read. ZPD, levels, and lexiles are the axis of evil when to comes to reading. Choice is limited. Re-reading is useless since there is no "credit" for reading a book you love again. And if there is not a test for the book you read, you are out of luck unless someone creates a test for you over the book. I cannot emphasize enough the power of CHOICE. Donalyn Miller and I have an entire chapter devoted to it in the book we are writing.
3. If you are looking for a way to track what kids are reading, here's a thought: talk to them. Yep, conferring is a much better way to see what they are thinking about the books they are treading. AND, we can dig deeper than those surface level questions from the AR program. If a question has ONE. RIGHT. ANSWER., it is not much of a question at all.
Well, there is more, but let's save it for another post.