By Brooke Thompson
Reading is an important aspect of our lives. As children, we do not truly realize the necessity of it, especially if we are struggling with the reading itself or comprehension.
As someone who once struggled with reading comprehension, I found that reading practice really helped with that. Not only that, but it gave me better language arts skills and eventually led me to my passion: writing.
However, I would never have gained a love for reading or writing had it not been for a reading program, namely Accelerated Reader, or AR.
What is Accelerated Reader?
For those unfamiliar with Accelerated Reader, it is a computer program where students read a book and take a test on it.
How my teacher set it up, she required her students to read a set amount of books each quarter and take tests on them.
The two schools that I attended had the program and used a point system to encourage my classmates and me to read, as well as setting it up as a competition.
When I was a young child, my mother and I had a nightly ritual of reading a book before bed. I remember loving the way she narrated the stories and voiced the colorful characters whenever they spoke. Her funny voices and different inflections always seemed to bring the stories to life, which peaked my interest in reading.
One night, when my mother came into my bedroom to begin the nightly ritual of a children’s story before bed, I asked her if she could teach me how to read, to which she replied that I will learn that when I started attending school.
Flash forward to the second grade. Though I could read decently and had an appreciation for reading, I did not like Language Arts–the elementary version of English.
I despised the subject because I had convinced myself I was not good at it. I had a hard time remembering how to properly punctuate sentences. In my little kid brain, there were (and still are) too many rules to follow and sometimes they contradicted each other!
How could anyone keep these rules straight?!
On top of that, I had poor reading comprehension skills. My teacher would give us skill sheets to read and take a little quiz over, and I would do poorly on them. It’s not that I didn’t know what I had just read, I just couldn’t pick out the important aspects of a document to answer the questions.
However, that all changed when my teacher introduced us to the reading program “Accelerated Reader,” or AR.
How Accelerated Reader reading program helped me
At first, I treated this activity as additional homework until I fell in love with reading. Maybe it was just the books she had in her classroom or just discovering the American Girl and Junie B. Jones series at the library, or maybe it was even the constant encouragement from both my teacher and parents that played a factor into why I was so enamored with reading.
All I remembered was how, as a seven-year-old, I enjoyed the feeling of escaping your current life in just words and paper. I read so voraciously that by the end of the second grade, I was reading at a fourth-grade level.
When I started the third grade, I found that I was pretty good at Language Arts. I did not realize this at the time, but when I read all those books the year prior, I had learned where punctuation goes, what words sound right in sentences, and got better at spelling.
I believe that by looking at the variety of sentences, my mind (in a way) tended to memorize how a sentence is structured and how it should be punctuated.
Additionally, I even retained most of what I had read and could tell you anything that happened in a story. I had even started to try writing my own stories, which also could be why my language arts skills improved.
When I later brought my report card home at the end of the second quarter, my mother smiled at my A and said, “Wow! Your brain really turned on to Language Arts this year!”
Skills Gained from Accelerated Reader
In addition to gaining language arts skills, I also learned how to think critically and developed an expansive imagination.
Critical thinking skills are essential because it allows a person to question and better understand something. An expansive imagination allows for someone to find unique solutions to problems and also fosters creativity.
As mentioned above, I acquired a love for story writing through reading as I thought of ways I could improve the stories I had read or thought about what I would do if I was in a character’s place.
In this pandemic, now may seem like a better time than ever to get your kids acclimated to reading.
While the act of reading is an important tool in life, it is the ability to understand what the material means that is the most useful skill.
Teaching your kids critical thinking and literacy early will set them up for success later in life. Take it from an Accelerated Reader vet like me!