When our son TJ was nearing the end of 7th grade, he had not yet earned any AR*, or “Accelerated Reading” points. In an attempt to resolve this before the deadline, we created scheduled reading times and reading quantities (number of pages per day) but he still could not finish his books or pass an AR test.
With the end of the grading period approaching, I decided I would read his AR book to him so I could discuss each chapter with him in hopes that it would help him remember the story better.
One evening as we were discussing a chapter I’d just read to him, I was getting very frustrated because he could not tell me much about the story. I told him, Just picture it in your head so you don’t have to memorize it all picture it like a movie in your head. He told me he couldn’t do that and my response was, Of course you can! You’ve seen lots of movies. You know how it works.
He stated, I can’t make a movie in my head because I don’t know what it’s supposed to look like. I proceeded to tell him that he didn’t have to know what it looked like because he could make it look however he wanted to based on the story’s descriptions.
After going back and forth with TJ, this thought finally dawned on me: Maybe some people just can’t make a movie in their head. After all, that’s what TJ has been telling me, so why am I insisting that he can.
There I was again, trying to force my right on him. Why wasn’t I listening to him?
After the realization that TJ truly could not picture the story when reading a book, I experimented with what could be done to modify his AR requirement. I spoke with the teachers, and they understood that due to this learning difference, he would unlikely be a high AR achiever. We were able to set his AR goal at an attainable level.
The next problem How could I help him to achieve even this lower level AR goal Usually the students would go to the library once a week for about 45 minutes to make their selection and start on their book. However, for TJ this was not a long enough time to make a good selection for his needs and interests. He oftentimes was stuck with a book that didn’t suit him or was too advanced for him. So, I took a more active role in the book selection. Now, each time he needs a new book I check out books from the public library based on his preferences, the grade level, point level, as well as the number of pages (I only choose books for TJ that have less than 30,000 words). I pick out five or six books based on the outlined criteria and he chooses one or two from the bunch.
Basically, by paying attention to TJ’s needs I can help him to be successful in the AR program. Despite the feeling early on that the program would be nothing but a reminder of failure it can now be another avenue for success.
*AR is Accelerated Reading, which is a program utilized in our school district’s reading program. Thousands of books are given a grade level and a point level, determined by the difficulty and length of each book, and a quiz is given for each to determine how many points the student earns for each book. Each student has an AR goal and their grade is based on the percentage of their goal that they achieve each grading period.