When AR Means Anti-Reading

Posted on May 8, 2020


Few things thrill me like seeing my son walk into the living room, first thing in the morning, holding a BOOK!

I remember how formal education nearly extinguished his love for reading with the “reading for points” program (AR) and standardized-test reading. There were a few years in his teens when Cale stated, angrily and unequivocally, “I HATE reading.”

As a parent and an educator, I am hugely disappointed in a public education system that makes children hate the rich and wondrous written form of their own language, but I’ve seen far too many high school students say the same thing to deny it.

In middle school, my son’s reading selections were severely limited by the read-for-points program. He was not interested in the books on the AR list. Having to read books that didn’t interest him caused him to begin to view reading as an unpleasant chore, rather than the highly enjoyable activity he’d known up til then.

Fortunately, he complained to me, and fortunately, I was a pro-reading ELA teacher who was able to advocate for my son’s right to read biographies, history, and other non-fiction selections. I negotiated with his teacher ways for him to show proof that he read the books (because having an intelligent conversation about it simply wouldn’t do!), and he once again could read books he chose–but the die was cast. My son’s view of teachers of Language Arts changed, as did mine, when we discovered that some would rather see a student read a minimum of “approved” books they disliked and answer multiple-choice questions about it than read a lot more of books they choose and enjoy. Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting

In spite of this and many other unpleasant anti-reading experiences at school, now, in his mid-thirties, he is, once again, an avid reader–and he reads mostly–non-fiction.

He reads all the time, and he loves reading. It enriches his life. When he travels, he, like me, worries over having enough and the right kind of books in his bag. School nearly robbed him of this deep and essential joy of living. This is why I’m thrilled to see him reading in the morning. Read on!

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lisa eddy is a writer, researcher, educator, advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

On email: lisagay.eddy1@gmail.com