Throughout my elementary school career, all students were required to participate in the Accelerated Reading Program. I believe that I, along with many others, if not most, other students were only harmed rather than benefitted by the AR Program.
The AR Program is the beginning of separation into academic and non-academic students. The Accelerated Reading Program does not help students improve their reading ability at all, as they are tested through the partnered STAR testing, which assigns students an appropriate reading level.
Students are tested multiple times throughout their elementary school lives, and while some naturally gifted students who are good with English and reading comprehension may consistently get better scores and higher reading levels, there will also be students who do not have a knack for reading who will still have the equivalent of a third grade reading ability in the fifth grade, so they will continue to read third grade-appropriate books rather than challenging themselves to harder material.
Because each book in the AR Program has a unique post- reading quiz that goes along with it, students are limited to reading books that are in the program. While students can read other books, they are jeopardizing not having enough time to read other books in order to get their desired amount of AR points. Some schools or teachers even prohibit their students from reading non-Accelerated Reading books until their points have been acquired.
Students get AR points by taking the quizzes that go along with each book they read, and they get a certain amount of points for each question they answer correctly. The amount of points possible per book is based on the length and reading level of the book. Books with more pages and higher reading levels are going to have more points available.
For example, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone has a reading level of 5.5 and is categorized in an interest level most likely to be chosen by fourth through eighth graders. It has 12 points available. Junie B. Jones, First Grader has a reading level of 2.9 and is classified as an interest level of grades third and lower. It has 2 available AR points. The book that offers the most AR points is Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, at 118 points.
Even if students did not enjoy reading, they may have had the drive to get AR points because of a schoolwide reward system, or a small one their teacher initiated. At my school, students who earned over 1,000 AR points while in elementary school got to choose their favorite book, and art students at the high school would paint the book cover on a ceiling tile, along with the student's name and the total amount of points earned. In my fifth grade class, rewards included small prizes such as candy, and the biggest reward was a milkshake.
While I did have an above average reading ability, I did not have the drive to get AR points. I didn't want to read more than I already had to. I only ever got the required amount of points per semester, which was normally around 50 points, and then I didn't try to get anymore.
As soon as I got to middle school, I stopped going to the library because I no longer had to. Now that I'm out of high school, I enjoy reading in my free time without the pressure to do it for some unknown reason. I never really understood the worth behind the Accelerated Reading points, and I still do not.