Two years ago Ingersoll Middle School, grades five
through eight, instituted "Accelerated Reader" (AR)
to encourage students' independent reading, the main component
of improved reading comprehension. In this program, a student
reads a book and takes a short quiz on it, thereby earning "points"
based upon his level of success, the difficulty level of the book,
the length of the book, and his individualized reading goal. Language
arts teachers provide thirty minutes of reading time per day and
oversee book choice and appropriateness based on reading levels
and personal interests. During each of these first two years,
students have read many times what they read by choice prior to
the inception of AR. Previously, teachers had to push most students
to read one book per quarter and report on it, and then the teachers
tried to sort out the real reports from the "faked"
reports. For promoting reading and personal reading growth, it
was hopeless. The AR approach, overseen by language arts teachers
who keep themselves updated on middle grade books, finds students
reading many books per quarter-and actually liking it.
The school rewards AR progress by announcing names
of students who reach one hundred points, having them sign and
date a hundred-point poster in the main hallway, and posting pictures
of students who earn multiples of one hundred points. With the
Sunshine grant, students who reach one hundred points or multiples
thereof would also be rewarded with a book.
Sunshine money would purchase approximately two
hundred fifty paperback novels, selected for their literary quality
and enjoyment levels by language arts teachers, from which a hundred-point
student would choose one for his own. Selections would be made
from Newbery Award winners, Rebecca Caudill nominations, New York
Times selections, "hot titles" among the students, or
other respected sources. School book clubs such as The Trumpet
Club and Scholastic Books offer many such titles in the $2.95
to $4.95 price range; Scholastic has a book fair warehouse sale
near Canton at 50% off book fair prices. Teachers are used to
looking for "real deals" on quality materials.
As of Feb. 28, 2002, one hundred eight students
have already reached 100 points or multiples of 100 points this
school year, two hundred sixty-eight have over fifty. Based upon
the hypothesis that half of those "fifty-pointers" reach
their hundred by year's end, roughly two hundred fifty books would
have been needed to fulfill such prizes this year. The receipt
of this grant would allow this school to further encourage personal
reading by giving a book to that many students next year. This
project, however, does have a downside: it is possible that some
students might read more-just so they can get a book-and we might
run out of books. We can only hope.