I’m on my school’s Literacy Committee, and most of the time I find the assignment to be highly enjoyable. Recently, though, we have been discussing something that has turned into a sensitive subject: requirements for reading.
You’d think that it would be an easy conversation–kids need to read, teachers should have kids read. Where we came to disagreement was exactly how teachers should have kids read. What ended up happening was a division into two camps:
Camp one–teachers should use Accelerated Reader (a reading program that comes with comprehension tests and “diagnostics” to tell kids where they are in their reading and what they “should” be reading). Teachers should require kids only to read books that fall within the program (there are many) and insure that each child is aware of their level (as diagnosed by program–the test has never been examined for actual accuracy).
Camp two–teachers should just encourage kids to read. period. full stop. There should be some sort of comprehension check, but the format for that check is at the discretion of the teacher.
The meeting definitely got tense. As a member of “camp two,” I fully understand the attraction of a program such as AR. It spits out results; it tells the kids what books to read; it tells the teachers if the kids are reading.
Of course, what it doesn’t do is have the teachers talk to the kids about reading. A test, requirement, comprehension check, they all keep kids reading for class–they don’t, of course, turn kids into lifetime readers.