A Guide to Accelerated Reader
What is Accelerated Reader™?
Accelerated Reader™ (AR) is a whole class management and monitoring programme that aims to foster independent reading in primary and secondary school pupils. It is currently the most popular reading practice software in UK schools. Developed by Renaissance Learning, it allows teachers to monitor the reading development and practices of their pupils, and provides tools to quickly ascertain their reading level, reading age and comprehension level.
Pupils read a book, take an online quiz and get immediate feedback. They are aided in their selection of the next book by the monitoring software which will guide the level of difficulty for their choice. The programme encourages pupils to read independently and more importantly at their own pace and level. Schools will need a range of books at each level, in order to support pupils’ choices, and the service is offered to schools on a subscription basis by Renaissance Learning. Teacher training is offered as part of the programme.
Renaissance Learning assess and assign an AR Book level and book points to each of thousands of newly published books each year. Schools, pupils and parents can look up the Accelerated Reader™ Level of individual books using the AR Bookfinder.
What are AR Levels and Bookpoints?
Book levels are assigned to titles using the ATOS readability formula. ATOS book levels are consistent and reliable when measuring text complexity. The formula uses the most important factors that determine the complexity of text, and uses the largest data sample of its kind in the world to achieve its results. ATOS is also an extremely useful guide for teachers, librarians, parents and guardians.
Every title that has an AR Reading Practice Quiz is given a point value. AR points are worked out using the difficulty of the book (ATOS readability level) and the length of the book (number of words). Readers earn points depending on how well they do on the quiz. For example, a reader who takes a 5-question quiz on a book worth 1 point will earn 1 point for 5 correct answers (100%). A reader who reads a book worth 5 points and takes a 10-question quiz will earn 5 points for 10 correct answers (100%).
What is the initial assessment process?
The online Star Reading Assessment, gives pupils their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). This supports pupils and their teachers to find appropriate reading materials for them.
Star Assessments provide data showing the progress made by each student and if they are on track to meet expected standards in the learning pathway. Star Assessments also provide a personalised learning plan for each student, helping to inform the next teaching steps.
Do Accelerated Reader™ levels map directly to Book Band levels?
No. Children take online quizzes once they have read a book and progress through the AR levels in response to their quiz scores. For information on Book Band Levels please see: A Guide to Book Bands.
Can I use Accelerated Reader™ as an intervention?
Yes. There are numerous examples of Accelerated Reader™ working as an intervention. One example is the LRC manager, Beth Khalil, at Thorp Academy, Tyne and Wear. Beth has this to say about the AR programme - “We initially introduced Accelerated Reader because we needed a way to measure progress through reading skills. We had heard of its success in other schools and decided to implement it through the English department. It has proved to be a positive way to promote reading for pleasure as well as building on vocabulary skills and engaging the students through literacy.”
Over time AR had been fully embedded into the literacy policy of the Academy. Data collected from RS and STAR Reading Assessments were used to demonstrate progress and inform further learning strategies. “We monitor and adjust the AR lessons regularly to show we are taking action to improve reading and literacy standards. For Ofsted inspections, we have provided the data we get from the STAR Reading tests. Students are tested four times per year, allowing us to track their progress each term.”
All quiz scores and progress towards agreed targets are tracked by the teachers and LRC staff. They listen to students reading from the books that they have picked and give individual help where it is needed. Because students receive regular feedback, teachers are given opportunities to praise and reward students for their continued successes. It also give teachers the chance to discuss with their students what they have been reading and what they would like to move onto next.
Students are a lot more engaged with their reading and top readers are given bookmarks, posters and certificates. Badger Learning has provided the academy with bookmarks and posters and our current range can be viewed here. There is now a big culture of reading at Thorp Academy and a record number of students have received reward stamps for passing quizzes at 90% or above. Over 2,000 books were borrowed in one half term! Beth, and the AR programme, has created a fantastic reading culture at the academy - “The LRC is used much more for personal reading during social times, as well as during lessons. Students are getting used to quizzing regularly and independently outside their AR classes.”
We at Badger Learning publish a wide range of Hi-Lo books which are levelled by Accelerated Reader™, you can view a list of books at each level here.
Is there an evidence base for Accelerated Reader™?
Research has shown that a pupil is more likely to enjoy reading if they are given the option to select their own books to read. ‘An important factor in developing reading for pleasure is choice. Schraw et al, 1998 (cited in Clark and Rumbold, 2006) found that there was a positive relationship between choice and affective aspects of reading, such as motivation. Also, Gambrell, 1996 (cited in Clark and Rumbold, 2006) found that when children were asked which book they had enjoyed most, 80% of them said that the one they had enjoyed most was the one they had chosen themselves.’. Department for Education - Research evidence on reading for pleasure. Read the full report here.
Much of the research on Accelerated Reader™ comes from the US, where this programme started. You can take a look at this here.
UK research has been conducted by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) who in a small scale effectiveness trial of the programme saw sufficient progress (see below) to fund a further larger scale efficacy trial which will report in Autumn 2019. See summary findings below or view the full report here.
The EEF funded this small scale efficacy trial to see if it could have an impact in English secondary schools. This is one of a number of small trials developed by EEF and designed to improve outcomes for struggling readers at the transition from primary to secondary school.
The study found that Year 7 pupils who were offered Accelerated Reader™ made 3 months’ additional progress in reading compared to other similar pupils. For pupils eligible for free school meals the figure was 5 months’ additional progress.
For weaker readers, the approach appears to contribute towards catch-up at the start of secondary school, although pupils at very low levels of reading may need initial support from teachers to benefit, if they are not independent readers.
Based on the promising findings from this small study, the EEF has now funded an effectiveness trial, to see if the results can be replicated for a larger number of schools.
- Accelerated Reader™ appears to be effective for weaker readers as a catch-up intervention at the start of secondary school.
- A well-stocked library with a wide collection of books banded according to the Accelerated Reader™ readability formula, and easy access to computers with internet connection, are the main requirements for successful implementation.
- Pupils at very low levels of reading may not be independent readers and would need initial support from teacher to start reading books.
- Schools can lead robust evaluations of their own planned interventions, under favourable circumstances, and with some advice and oversight from expert evaluators.
Is Accelerated Reader™ a whole school programme?
Yes. It can be used for specific year groups, as an intervention or as part of a whole school reading approach. A successful AR programme requires the provision of sufficient books for pupils to have a choice of titles at each level in order to foster reading for pleasure and progression. A whole school approach might include library development, teacher training, allocated time for pupils to read during the school day as well as the monitoring provided by the software.
How do I choose Accelerated Reader™ books for my school?
AR uses published books, levelled by a computer algorithm to assess the complexity of the language. This allows schools to select from a vast range of books published by a wide range of publishers including well known authors and classic stories. There are also a substantial number of books available that are high interest, low ability (Hi-Lo), so that pupils working below expected levels for their age group can potentially access a variety of texts that appeal to their interests.
When schools implement the programme, they don’t need to purchase specific sets of books upfront but can often combine existing stocks with top up titles to ensure a variety of books is available. They will need to ensure they have a range of texts at different levels so children have variety and breadth to select books that appeal to them with appropriate challenge. If pupils have access to a large range of texts, they can read books they’re interested in and are more likely to engage with, and sustain, a reading habit.
We offer Accelerated Reader™ collections which are ideal to top up or build library stocks, ensuring a range of titles to support a growing reading culture in school. Our collections range from Hi-Lo to full length novels. Every AR pack contains a copy of each listed book and is supplied with a sticker* to be placed on or inside the book – detailing the quiz number, interest level, book level and book points.
Levelled collections can save teachers and librarians time in building a comprehensive reading resource within the Accelerated Reader™ programme.
How do I choose Accelerated Reader™ books for struggling readers?
Accelerated Reader™ can be used by a teacher to help guide struggling readers to books that they can read and understand more successfully. Once the pupil has completed a Star Assessment they will be given a ZPD score. Using the AR Bookfinder the pupil or teacher can search for titles in that range, and combine this information with interest age and area of interest. School library stocks could also be stickered with the AR Levels to aid selection of appropriate titles.
For pupils who experience difficulties with reading, text selection is important. Engaging books geared to the interest age of the pupil with a low word count can help enthuse reluctant readers and develop their skills and confidence.
Does Accelerated Reader™ take account of interest age?
Yes. LY relates to lower years, MY middle years, MY+ and UY upper years. These relate to the following chronological ages:
Lower Years, ages 5–8
Middle Years, ages 9–13
Middle Years+, ages 12 and above
Upper Years, age 14 and above
Are Badger Learning’s books quizzed and levelled for Accelerated Reader™?
All of our published books are quizzed and levelled for Accelerated Reader™. All published titles at each level can be viewed here.
We work very closely with Accelerated Reader™ to make sure that our newly published titles are with them as soon as they are available. Once they receive our titles they usually take a month to read through, level and quiz. We pride ourselves on a smooth and quick turnaround allowing our customers to have all of the AR information they need when choosing new titles for their school.
We have also put together AR collections of books from other publishers, which have been read, assessed and packaged into library collections by our expert product team. All of the books have been selected by our team for their ‘Book Level’, ‘Interest Level’ and ‘Book Points’ but with the added expertise of Badger Learning – selecting you books of the very best suitability and quality and a good mix of genres. We also work hard to ensure all collections meet our strict content guidelines to ensure we are considering the emotional maturity of the pupil as well as the complexity of text level and are always looking to showcase the best of what’s on the market. All our published titles are also available to purchase individually.
Can I get Accelerated Reader™ stickers for my school library?
All our Accelerated Reader™ packs contain a copy of each listed book and are supplied with a sticker* to be placed on or inside the book — detailing the quiz number, interest level, book level and book points.
What Accelerated Reader™ Books are Popular with Pupils?
Renaissance Learning annually release a report showcasing the data from UK schools using the Accelerated Reader™ programme called What Kids are Reading. This data is presented by Professor Topping and can be downloaded here. Although popular titles such as Diary of the Wimpy Kid score very highly among a number of year groups, there is a wide range of titles that are selected by pupils.
Here is a list of our Non-fiction titles that have made it into the Top 20 for, Non-fiction Books Read Most Often: Year 7, Non-fiction Books Read Most Often: Year 8 and Non-fiction Books Read Most Often: Year 9
Goalkeepersby Jonny Zucker
Movie Monstersby Danny Pearson
James Bondby Danny Pearson
Goal Scorersby Jonny Zucker
Body Artby Alison Hawes
Dangerous Stuntsby Jonny Zucker
Midfield Heroesby Jonny Zucker
Daredevilsby Alison Hawes
Shocking Con Tricksby Jonny Zucker
Haunted Britainby Daniel Blythe
Plague and Pox by John Townsend
Fighter Planesby Cavan Scott
Freshwater Predatorsby Craig Allen
Hidden Treasure by Alison Hawes