Using Accelerated Reader to empower reluctant readers
Thorpedene Primary School, Shoeburyness
The reading shake-up
Before we began using Accelerated Reader, reading at Thorpedene Primary School was a rather hit and miss affair. Reluctant readers would take a book from the library one week, flick through it, and return it unread the following week. This was causing us great concern, and we knew we had to address it as a matter of urgency. Having seen the impact of Accelerated Reader before, in other schools, we were keen to provide our children with the same opportunities we knew it could offer. In September 2016, Accelerated Reader was rolled out across Key Stage 2.
Setting up Accelerated Reader was pretty simple, although it was time-consuming! With an army of volunteers and a dedicated librarian, thousands of books were labelled, levelled and distributed across all the classrooms and the library. Helpfully, any queries we had during this simple process were quickly solved by the Renaissance team over the phone.
Farewell, reluctant readers!
Thanks to the way Accelerated Reader works, reluctant readers soon started to feel empowered about their own reading, especially being able to choose their own books within their ZPD and not having one prescribed to them by adults. The range of books available on AR is vast, which ensures there is a topic of interest for every child. Being able to quiz on each book provides a good indication of the children’s level of understanding, which enables us to track their progress: see how often they’re reading and whether intervention is required. Plus, the children enjoy the quizzes as they’re keen to beat their previous scores!
The most important aspect of Accelerated Reader to our children has always been that they are only in competition with themselves – not anyone else. This is key, especially for those who might feel intimidated by more confident readers.
Some of our readers were very keen to provide their thoughts on Accelerated Reader for this piece:
“I love Accelerated Reader. I never used to like reading – I would just take a book from the library because I had to. I wouldn’t read it but just return it the next week. Accelerated Reader is much more fun as I can choose my own book and then I can quiz on it. I like doing that. I like to beat myself and I get a little cross if I don’t do so well on a quiz.” –10-year-old pupil
“The best thing about Accelerated Reader is seeing how I am improving. I love it when I am able to go up a level because I get a whole new set of books to choose from.” – 9-year-old pupil
Monitoring and data
Reading has always been one of the hardest areas for teachers to assess. However, Accelerated Reader allows teachers to gather information and data from a range of reports about each child.
Every child here completes the Star Reading test in September. It’s tailored to how the child is performing – more able children are automatically given more difficult questions – which means it gives very accurate data! At the end of the test, we check the Zone of Proximal Development, which is the reading level for each child.
We decided to start our children at the lower end of their ZPD, so that they gain 100% on their reading quizzes and gain confidence as they progress upwards. We can see very quickly which children are stuck at a level, and address the problem swiftly: talking to them to find out whether they simply didn’t like a particular book, or whether intervention is required. Through the Accelerated Reader reports, we can easily see how many books a child has read and whether their preference is fiction or non-fiction by going into their individual student record.
As well as providing a reading age, the Star Reading Growth Report shows the NRSS, the Normal Referenced Standardised Score, which shows where each child is nationally. Another report we have found very informative is the Screening Report, which indicates very clearly which children are above benchmark, at benchmark, on watch, or require intervention or urgent intervention. This report can be for specific classes or completed as a year group.
As a school we have seen a huge improvement in the numbers of pupils achieving national expectations in reading. Over the past four years, we have seen an increase from 41% achieving age-related expectations at the end of KS2 to 71% in 2019!
How we celebrate!
To encourage our pupils, we created a point/reward scheme – awarding small prizes for the achieving lower points milestones, leading up to bigger prizes towards the end. To ensure all the children have an opportunity to earn the bigger prizes we carry all their points over to the following academic year, allowing them to see how they progress in their reading journey across all their time at Thorpedene. And because of this, we chose prizes which would assist our Year 6 children moving on to Year 7 like dictionaries, pens, keyrings, calculators and memory sticks. Even though the children read their Accelerated Reader books for pleasure and not for the prizes, they are nonetheless happy to receive them!
We hold regular discussions with children who are struggling to make progress to ascertain what the problems are. The children enjoy talking about their reading and often the barriers to their progress are easily resolved. We have dedicated support staff who work daily with the weaker children to help boost their confidence and provide them with strategies for both reading and quizzing.
As well as celebrating successes in prize giving assemblies every term, the progress children are making is clearly displayed in both the KS1 and KS2 halls and the school’s library, creating talking points across the school.
An incredible journey
During parent consultations we’ve received very positive feedback from parents who have seen a total turnaround with their children’s attitude to reading. As well as instilling a ‘can-do’ mindset, they tell us their children now want to read for pleasure at home too! This is an incredible feat for some of our children. One of the great things about Accelerated Reader is that it’s accessible to most of our children, including those who fall in SEN and EAL groups.
Our children have dedicated, non-negotiable reading time straight after lunch every day which enables them to calm down for the afternoon and lose themselves in their books on a daily basis. Now, children no longer need to be reminded: they automatically start reading at this time, which only goes to show how much they enjoy it now. Our reluctant readers no long have to spend their time pretending to read!
As a school, we are so pleased to have introduced Accelerated Reader to our children. The impact has been huge, as has the progress in our SATs. If you want to instil a love of reading in your children, engage parents, and have a comprehension tracking system and a talking point across the school, we highly recommend the Accelerated Reading scheme.
|Celebration, Customer Service, Incentives, Intervention, National Expectations, Parents, Pupil Progress, Reading At Home, Reading Culture, Reading for Pleasure, Reluctant Readers, SEN