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Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

“With Accelerated Reader, we couldn’t want for more.”

Christ Church Church of England Primary School, Chesterfield

The importance of reading

A big focus of Christ Church school in the last couple of years has been to encourage everyone – teachers, parents and students – to understand how important reading is at home as well as at school. Strong literacy skills are fundamental to whole-curriculum development: we believe better reading will help children in whatever difficulties they’re facing at school.

However, if you approach reading and the nurturing of reading in the wrong way, it’s easy to ruin the potential love of books forever. Plus, we need to be aware of not ‘teaching to the test’: this could lead to students losing the fun of learning and replacing it with resentment and disinterest. Therefore, it was important to us as a school to find a resource that could cultivate a love of and an appetite for reading in each pupil.

With Accelerated Reader, we found that exact resource.

Doing our research…

Of course, if you’re going to invest in a library enhancement programme, you’ve got to do your research beforehand. We spoke to librarians and SLT from other schools who are using Accelerated Reader and they all said the same thing: Accelerated Reader promotes a love of reading. We even visited different libraries in other schools and were shown how AR had been implemented and how it had enhanced their library. If anything is going to encourage you to implement AR, seeing how successful and effective it is in other schools will do it!

Seeking a reading assessment solution

Our search for a resource to inspire readers and nurture a love for reading also included seeking a valid and reliable reading assessment strategy. We wanted to challenge the normal approach not only to reading, but also to learning. We’d seen children in the past who were so intimidated by SATs tests that it resulted in a lot of anxiety and stress. We needed an assessment strategy to not only provide us with accurate information about each child’s current reading ability and growth, but that would also encourage our pupils to want to succeed in assessments, rather than fear them. We found all this in Star Reading.

“We spoke to librarians and SLT from other schools who are using Accelerated Reader and they all said the same thing: Accelerated Reader promotes a love of reading.”We conduct Star Reading tests at least once each half-term, and then we can refer to the Star Reading diagnostic report to identify each pupils’ individual reading level and the subsequent progress they’ve made. We can also see the time each child took to complete the assessment, so we know which pupils have rushed the test and therefore would’ve provided unreliable data.

Star Reading data allows us to structure our conversations with pupils based on where they’re struggling and what they need help with. From the Star Reading scaled scores and ZPD ranges, we’ve established a set of books that fall into either the ‘upper library’ or ‘lower library’. When pupils are told they can start reading books within the ‘upper library’ they think they’ve made it! You can see the confidence beaming from them.

With our previous assessment system, we tried our best, and it worked for a lot of children – but Star Reading works for everyone. It can assess every child appropriately, whether they’re struggling or advanced readers, and outline both what they are already skilled at and where they need help.

Greater comprehension

We’ve noticed greater precision in both reading books and general literacy comprehension because we can now match texts to ability and interest. This allows us to unpick each pupils’ personal barriers to reading: whatever they are, we now have a tool that lets us both identify and then address the reasons why growth isn’t as fast as we predicted. We can then make changes to teaching.

In Key Stage 1, we can identify and support the most- and the least-able readers early on and then construct each pupil’s reading development accordingly. And now, thanks to Star Reading assessments, we’re better placed to do this in literacy than any other subject!

The joy of it

If you’re a reader, you’ll know: sometimes you just want a quick easy read and sometimes you want something that you can really get your teeth into. Or maybe you want to explore something new. This diversity of choice is something we can see now in our children – and that’s because they’re reading for the joy of it. I’ve seen them literally queuing for books and asking their peers if they can borrow their book once they’ve finished, which we didn’t see before!

“Star Reading works for everyone. It can assess every child appropriately, whether they’re struggling or advanced readers, and outline both what they are already skilled at and where they need help.”We really love how AR encourages and directs pupils towards choosing books that they’re interested in, and want to read, but that are also ability-appropriate for them. Having a ZPD range attached to each book, signalling its reading level, has opened a whole new range of different books for pupils that they would have otherwise neglected. Of course, no one is saying no to the Jacqueline Wilson or David Walliams books, but now we’re seeing more children picking up books that are a little bit different, including much more non-fiction, and enjoying them.

Raising money

Since the implementation of Accelerated Reader, we’ve carried out multiple fundraising events to raise more money for more books. We held a ‘can you read’ sponsored read, for example, and it raised over £1,000!  We’ve had mini competitions too, including members of staff doing challenges like rollercoasters and scuba diving. It surprised us how well the activities were taken up: in an assembly we finally revealed all the books brought with the money raised – and the children literally gasped!

“We couldn’t want for more.”

Without Accelerated Reader and Star Reading, we simply wouldn’t know what we were missing. It’s an incredibly efficient system to develop a love of reading amongst all pupils and inform our teachers exactly what they need to further develop. Since the implementation of AR, we’ve fundamentally promoted a love of reading within our school and amongst our pupils. We simply couldn’t want for more.


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