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Accelerated Reader - A Northern Ireland success story

A teacher and literacy coordinator from Holy Family primary school in County Derry, Northern Ireland has praised the benefits of Accelerated Reader, software that allows children to take online comprehension quizzes about the books they have read.


Tommy McDermott believes that the introduction of Accelerated Reader led to inspectors in 2010 calling his school’s English and literacy provision “outstanding”.


His school is one of the success stories on the website for Renaissance Learning, the makers of AR, and he said in a testimonial: “To date, during this school year alone, the students have successfully quizzed on over 10,000 books and there are 12 children who have each read over one million words. Was this happening before the introduction of AR? Quite simply, no. AR has dramatically raised the profile of reading at the school.”


The school has implemented its own “reward system” where children can exchange points they earn from quizzing for one of the prizes displayed in a school cabinet.


“Each prize has a different points value so the children know exactly what is needed to win it and on the last Friday of each month we hold a prize-giving ceremony in the Assembly Hall,” said Mr McDermott.


The school also holds weekly competitions, and other initiatives around Easter, Christmas and World Book Day, to encourage reading. “We feel that offering the students such a wide variety of incentives helps maintain the high profile of reading within the school,” said Mr McDermott.


He added: “From the first time we assessed our students’ actual reading ages and levels using STAR Reading baseline assessment and then compared the results to the difficulty level of every book in the library, we realised that we needed to invest in some new titles to ensure all students were being catered for. For AR to work effectively you need to offer students a good supply of books at the appropriate level of interest and difficulty.


“Similarly, children must be given time to read. All teachers at Holy Family agreed to allow the students 30 minutes’ daily reading time, which is very important. We also allow them access to our school suite of 30 computers from 8.30am every day so that they have the option of taking a quiz before starting lessons. However, the vast majority of quizzing takes place in class.”


He also said it’s interesting to learn how different schools implement AR. “Some of our methods wouldn’t suit other schools and there are ideas we’ve seen used elsewhere that we would love to replicate. In this way it is important to regard AR as a tool that – if used correctly – can reap fantastic rewards, which is why we are always evaluating what we are doing and looking at how we can further improve.”


In response to the school’s efforts, the inspectors’ report said: “The children achieve very good standards in reading. By the end of KS2 almost all are reading at a level commensurate with, or above, their ability. The school has created a rich literacy environment to support the children’s learning and promotes the enjoyment of books through a number of initiatives which engage the children very well in their reading; as a result the children demonstrate an enthusiasm for reading and are keen to discuss their favourite books, authors and characters.”


David Collins

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