This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.
After doing an adolescent literature project for my Reading course in UTPA, I realized that not much has changed to incorporate literacy in elementary and secondary schools. Growing up, I faced a new challenge each six week cycle to read a certain amount of books in order to be tested on these and obtain points. These points would buy small rewards in the library such as pencils, candy, bookmarks, and maybe even more books. This program was called Accelerated Reader (AR). Accelerated Reader is actually software used by many schools to monitor the amount of books the students read.
After doing several interviews to a specific adolescent attending an Edinburg middle school and observing a class in an elementary school, I noticed that schools have not tried to modernize the literacy students do in any way, nor have they tried to approach this issue with other more appealing methods. Books are by no means bad forms of literacy, but trying to promote reading by instead forcing students to read is not the best way to allow this literacy to flourish. This AR program is not voluntaristic. Students do not have a choice as to whether or not they want to participate in reading books. This type of method to check whether or not students read does not teach any content, but rather teaches reading for recall. A student can easily just read a low level book, get tested, and meet the goal set by the school.
The schools that still use this AR program should instead invest on other more successful ways to promote reading and not just books, but also periodicals, online articles, or even blogs. Modern times call for the use of technology and this, as far as I’ve seen through my observations, is not very great in public schools. I have heard that some schools have done away with textbooks in order to save money and are instead assigning ipads with the textbooks in them. This is a start, yet more has to be done to target those children and teens who are not interested in reading because they view their school material “boring.” Content textbooks are not the best choice of recreational reading that a student may do. If this doesn’t change, students will not learn to appreciate and cherish a good form of literacy in their adulthood. I do not know how well other districts or states are doing in involving literacy in their schools, but the Rio Grande Valley has a lot of progress to do.