Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

Accelerated Reader is “firmly at the core of our reading culture”

Cromer Junior School, Cromer, Norfolk

Where it all began…

All of the staff at Cromer Junior School work hard to make it a happy place with cheerful, friendly children learning together. We have a deeply inclusive ethos, valuing the contribution every one of us adds to the school community. Reading is high on our agenda – our children are encouraged to read often and enjoy sharing stories together.

In May 2014, reading for pleasure and engagement with reading was a target area. Back then, we found that once children became ‘free readers,’ moving off the reading scheme they were in, it was tricky to track reading commitment and progress outside of reading tests. We found it was difficult to establish if a child was reading at an appropriate level of challenge, and if the key story points were being retained. We were keen to elevate the profile of reading at the school and to have a consistent whole-school approach. This is when we decided to introduce Accelerated Reader.

A worthwhile investment

Like any new initiative, Accelerated Reader took a while to embed. The process of labelling our books was a little time-consuming. But it’s safe to say that since the system has been up and running, everyone has enjoyed the benefits of it. As the ability to read well gives pupils access to many other subjects, we have found that investing in it has proved to be value for money.

We first started by setting aside four 30-minute reading sessions in school each week. At the time, we didn’t allow children to take their reading books home: we were worried they might lose, damage or forget them. But as time has gone on, our approach has evolved. Now we don’t have as much allocated reading time at school, but we do insist that children take their books home to read. Children also have a reading diary that they take home with their book. This is working for us so far, and it allows parents to engage with and participate in their children’s reading. Word of mouth also tells us that parents have enjoyed using the Home Connect feature to see how their children’s reading is going.

Where we are now

Accelerated Reader is now firmly at the core of our reading culture. Children are motivated to read, and part of the reason is because it’s so easy for them to track their own progress in reading. There’s a real ‘buzz’ about reading throughout the whole school.

Pupils can see own improvement as they move through the ZPD levels, and they can also measure their own success in quizzes. They can now quantify their reading in terms of books being read. It’s amazing how much difference this makes to their motivation!

Children are excited to see new books in the library and put in orders for new titles. Reading now has a high profile and the pupils see it as a valuable skill. The discourse around reading is very positive.

Tracking and monitoring

Children take a Star Reading test at the start of each term. We use this, in the first instance, to set the ZPD for each child. We also use the Scaled Score to measure and track progress, and as part of our dialogue with parents too. It’s particularly useful for children who are working below age-related expected levels, as the Scaled Score still shows their progress. We especially like being able to measure a child’s Scaled Score against the national data held by Accelerated Reader: this gives us another measure of where a child is sitting in relation to their age-related expectations.

Our teachers like the diagnostic reports and use them regularly to view a snapshot of the children’s Accelerated Reader activity. From this, we’re able to target children who are not consistent in their quiz scores and offer strategies to help them. Teachers have a stronger grasp now of what the children are reading, how much the children are reading and how much progress they’re making. The reports allow them to see progress or stagnation and to take appropriate action. With the added dimension of Star Reading’s data, teachers feel more confident in assessing reading.

Using the reports, our librarian is able to assist children to read books that are more challenging, and can help them choose books they might not have considered without adult help.

At the heart of the library

Accelerated Reader has been at the heart of our extensive refurbishment of the library. And we now have a librarian – partly as a result of our success with AR. AR has been central to broadening the range of books that children are reading.

Accelerated Reader doesn’t cover everything. We still teach whole class reading to develop the ‘softer’ skills of reading like inference, deduction, and text-marking. But it’s safe to say that Accelerated Reader has changed the reading culture of our school.

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