My 9 year old is an avid reader.
Back in Singapore, he reads whenever he finishes his work in class and this habit continues when we are here in the States now.
The difference is, the school that he is attending here has an extensive reading program where they keep track of how much every student reads and everyone is given a reading goal tailored to their reading capability, measured in Accelerated Reading points or AR points in short.
Students accumulate Accelerated Reading (AR) points towards their goal by answering a set of 10 to 20 questions that tests their understanding of the books they have read. For example, a Bernstein Bear book will earn you 0.5 AR points, The Hobbit, 16 and the Da Vinci Code, 23 AR points. The students are expected to reach their goal by the end of school year.
All the books in the library have an associated AR point, depending on the difficulty of the book. Once the student has attained his first 50 AR points, his name would be put up on a bulletin board in the library to recognise his achievement.
Interestingly, each student’s AR point goal is generated by a computer that measures the reading skill of the student. An advanced reader will be given a higher goal than a beginner reader.
Each student’s AR point goal and score are private to discourage the parents and students from comparing. The idea is to have the students strive for a personal goal and improve their reading skills.
In an effort to encourage the students to read, the school librarian, a funny guy in his late 20s or early 30s, challenged the kids in the elementary school to beat his AR point score.
At the beginning of school term, he declared to every student that if any one could beat his score, he would shave off his carefully grown and trimmed beard.
Malcolm’s name came up on the bulletin board after a few days of school hitting the 100 point. Everyone was surprised, including the librarian who didn’t quite expect a serious challenger from a 4th grader.
It created some kind of news among the kids and Malcolm became a little famous overnight. Schoolmates whom he doesn’t know came up to him, asking about his AR score. Everyone was curious and I guess everyone was hoping to see the funny librarian shaves his beard.
To date, he is at 900 and his target was set at 1200. Both the librarian and his scores have been pretty close. Some days, the librarian would be ahead. Other days, Malcolm would catch up and overtake. When Malcolm runs out of books to read, he would go to the librarian for recommendations and so far, he seems to be pretty happy with what that was recommended.
The students seem to benefit from this reading program. A friend told me her son who never like to read, recently picked up a Harry Potter.
Malcolm however seems unfazed. He reads, with or without the score. However we are all secretly rooting for him. I know it may sound evil, but it would be really funny to have the librarian lose his beard to a 4th grader from Singapore.