MetroWest Elementary School media specialist Lisa Waxler and PTA President Mark Leongomez support the Accelerated Reader program and extol its benefits.
Reading, writing and arithmetic have always been the cornerstones of education. Educators agree that the foundation on which all learning is based is unquestionably reading. Without good reading skills and comprehension, other subjects are harder to master.
Like any other activity, the more children read, the better they become at reading. Not only does it help children develop vital language skills, reading opens up new worlds and can enrich children’s lives by supplying endless hours of entertainment.
Books enable children to expand their critical-thinking skills. Mysteries allow readers to follow clues to come to logical conclusions; fantasy books encourage imagination and creativity; some books can help the reader navigate through social and character-building situations.
However, despite the best efforts of some parents, they find it a difficult task to get their children to pick up a book. Elementary schools have found a reading program that taps into the competitive side of students, who are often motivated by incentives.
Accelerated Reader, developed by Renaissance Learning, is a daily-progress monitoring-software assessment program. More than 140,000 book titles have corresponding online tests for students to measure their comprehension skills. Books are divided into age-appropriate categories, and within each category are levels of difficulty. Students earn the number of points assigned to a book if they pass the online test. Points are accumulated throughout the year. Those who successfully earn the required points each month are rewarded with a charm.
“The students love to work for the charms,” said MetroWest Elementary School media specialist Lisa Waxler.
Even the boys proudly wear their charm necklaces.
“We have found that the students also compete with each other,” Waxler said.
According to Waxler, the school has used the AR program since 1991. The program has been particularly helpful, because it lets teachers and parents determine if the child really read the book. MWES teachers can set goals for their students each month. They have access to reports regarding their students’ reading levels and comprehension skills, which enables teachers to gauge if their students are reaching the benchmarks set by the state of Florida.
Parents also can sign up to receive an email every time their child takes a test. In addition, they have access to the online database to track their child’s overall progress.
Currently, there are more than 140,000 tests available for children to take. However, the cost of this program does not come cheap.
According to MWES PTA President Mark Leongomez, the school pays between $8,000 to $10,000 annually to use the program. The fee includes access to the database, testing and reports. In years past, schools relied upon money disbursed by the state to help fund AR; however, because of budget cuts, the allocations have been discontinued, so the burden of funding this program has fallen upon the School Advisory Council and PTA.
Last year, MWES’s PTA decided to launch a read-a-thon, which would have a dual purpose of promoting reading among the students, as well as be a fundraising vehicle. During the month of April, students are encouraged to read and pass as many AR tests as possible. The goal for this year’s event is 10,000 books.
“I’m pretty sure that we are the first school in the area to tie our AR program to a read-a-thon,” said Leongomez. “Usually, they are measured by the number of minutes read. By using AR, we can really track how many books have been read.”
Parents, relatives, friends and neighbors can sponsor a child based on the number of books they read. Every child who participates and reads at least two books will receive a certificate of achievement. Those who excel will be entered into a raffle for a chance to win reading-related prizes, such as bookstore gift cards, reading tablets and more. The organizers are looking for co-sponsors to donate an iPad or money toward the purchase of prizes.
“We also want to be able to give teachers the chance to win something based on their classes’ results,” Leongomez said.
Another goal of the read-a-thon is to raise awareness of AR and how it benefits students. Raising the money needed to keep the program can be a strain on the PTA and SAC.
“It would basically take all of the money we raise during the year,” Leongomez said.
He also indicated that the PTA contributes to other MWES projects, which could possibly suffer if funds had to be reallocated to AR.
The hope is that an organization or company will step forward and co-sponsor the program, either partially or in its entirety.
In recognition of MWES’s outstanding results on last year’s Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, teachers were allocated a $10,000 bonus, which would generally be divided among them. By an overwhelming vote, the teachers decided to give their money back to the school to be used for reading programs, one of which was AR.
“That was an incredible gesture by our teachers, and it shows just how important the AR program is to them,” Leongomez said.
“All it takes is one good book to make a kid a reader for life,” he said.
For co-sponsorship information or to make a donation, call Matt Leongomez at 407-312-2682 or MetroWest Elementary School at 407-296-2682.
Kearney Publishing Corp.7901 Kingspointe Parkway, Suite 28Orlando, FL 32819407.351.1573 | Fax number: 407.363.3954
Kearney Publishing Corp.