The Best Reading Programs for Schools Aren’t Always the Best for Students

November 5, 2021

Best Reading Programs for Schools

Schools and school districts might use different programs for reading, math and other subjects. And every school or district could have their own preferences on how they teach these subjects and what programs are used to aid in teaching.

For reading, programs like Raz-Kids and Accelerated Reader might be utilized in the classroom. But what happens when the best reading programs for schools aren’t always the best for students?

Parents should know what programs their child is using in the classroom. Some schools may even provide logins for these programs that children can use at home. Understanding what programs are being used and how they are being used to teach or complement literacy lessons can help parents possibly help their own child…if they are struggling with reading.

Here’s what parents need to know about reading programs at school and how they could affect their child’s reading progress or how they might even reveal that their child is struggling.

Reading Instruction Changes and Evolves

Schools and districts don’t teach literacy as they did in the past. All curriculums tend to change and evolve. For example, third graders were once required to master and memorize their multiplication facts. Some schools have now dropped this skill and drill mentality.

Reading lessons have evolved, too. Some districts focus on Common Core tenets. And even reading expectations could have changed. Years ago, book reports were a popular way teachers could monitor what students read…and if they understood the book.

Now teachers might use other tools or programs. For example, Accelerated Reader awards ‘points’ to children when they pass a quiz about a book that they completed. The quiz usually tests comprehension.

Teachers can set goals related to Accelerated Reader points. Or they may offer a reward system that encourages children to read and take these quizzes. Other programs could work differently.

There is debate about reading programs. Some parents don’t like testing children after reading a book. And some children might read shorter and easier books just to earn points for rewards. Authors may have their own opinions; there is a YouTube video that showcases Judy Blume’s feelings about Accelerated Reader.

But while some parents or even authors might not agree with a particular program, some kids might love the program. It could work great for them and motivate them to read more.

While it’s always important for parents to understand the pros and cons of a program, and perhaps the opinions surrounding it, no program is all good or all bad for every child. The question isn’t about the effectiveness of Accelerated Reader or other programs. The question for parents is: does it work for your child?

This is where the debate becomes and can become heated. Some parents really dislike the reading programs their schools use. Others think they are just fine. But what works for one child doesn’t work for every child.

Parents should have a conversation with their child about the programs their school is using for reading. Ask the child if they like it. Parents should review the data on the child’s progress on the program. Is their child progressing? If it’s a program like AR, is the child earning points? Are they using the program often? Are they passing quizzes?

Programs that quiz children after reading could be difficult for children who struggle with reading. Unfortunately, schools might just embrace certain programs as those programs might be the most effective for the majority of readers.

Best Reading Programs for Schools

When the Programs Don’t Work for the Child

If reading programs utilized by the school aren’t working for a child, parents might not know what to do next. Like most situations, though, parents need to reach out to the child’s teacher.

Talk about any difficulty the child may be experiencing with the reading program. If they aren’t passing quizzes and earning points, how can parents help? Ask about the child’s reading level. Is the child reading books that are too difficult for them?

It’s sometimes easy for parents to criticize a program and proclaim that it isn’t right for their child. But parents need to understand that sometimes these programs are pointing out an issue that might need to be addressed.

For example, in the case of quiz-based programs like Accelerated Reader, maybe a child is really struggling with reading comprehension. Or maybe they are reading books beyond their reading level.

Identifying reading struggles, though, could mean that the child could possibly qualify for additional help in the classroom. Or perhaps the school offers specialized reading programs for children who struggle with literacy.

A reading program could identify reading struggles, and this is actually a good thing. The sooner a child’s struggles are identified, the sooner that the school—and parents—might be able to intervene and provide more help.

Best Reading Programs for Schools

Can Parents Veto a School Reading Program?

If a reading program that the school uses isn’t working for a child, can a parent opt for their child not to use it? This really depends on the district. Some programs might be used to gain more reading data on a child.

For example, STAR tests are used to measure and understand students’ improvement or progress in reading and math. While STAR isn’t necessarily a program, some parents might not love the frequent testing of their child. Or they may find that their child just doesn’t perform well on standardized tests.

The only way a parent can find out if their child can stop using a program is by contacting the teacher or the school. Again, though, issues with the program could actually be showing that a child needs more help or that additional intervention is necessary. So opening a dialogue with the school is important for many reasons.

Understood compiled a list of questions that parents can ask the school about reading instruction in the classroom. This would be a great resource to use for parents who need to open a dialogue with their child’s teacher or administrator about the reading program and curriculum and to perhaps address their child’s difficulties.

Reading Programs to Use at Home

Parents who feel that their child is struggling with school reading programs can elect to use reading programs at home that are designed for struggling readers. There are many different programs available.

Parents might search for reading apps or other options via their phones (the App Store or Google Play). However, many available programs could be game-based. While games can be a great way for children to practice letter identification, sounds and even sight words, if a child is struggling with reading comprehension, they may need a lesson-based program like Readability.

Children who are struggling to master comprehension quizzes on school programs could help boost their comprehension abilities by using Readability. The program also can help children who have trouble with decoding and reading fluency.

What makes Readability unique is its inclusion of a built-in AI-based reading tutor. Readability’s tutor helps to guide lessons. When working on Readability, students read stories aloud. This is how the tutor helps recognize and identify each child’s unique voice and their inflections.

The tutor will understand when a child is struggling to pronounce a word or when they are simply stuck. As children read, they also can interact with the stories. If they are unsure about a word’s meaning, they can click on it to learn more. This helps children expand their knowledge…and their vocabulary.

When a child completes a story, the tutor will guide a comprehension lesson. Children will be asked questions about the story they just read. Sound familiar? It is a bit like Accelerated Reader, and, in this way, Readability can help children who struggle with those types of comprehension quizzes.

If a child does not master comprehension quizzes for the stories at their current level or if they struggle to read the stories fluently, they will remain at that reading level. Parents shouldn’t be concerned if students take longer to move to another level; every child will progress at their own level. It’s important that children demonstrate reading fluency and a full understanding of the stories before they advance to more difficult lessons.

Readability also provides parents with data about their child’s reading progress. Parents have access to the Parent Dashboard via Readability; this portal displays the words read per minute, how long the child used Readability and the current reading level.

All this reading data also can be collated into a report that can be emailed to the child’s teacher. This can help ensure that the school knows that parents are using a reading program at home and how the child is performing on that program.

Keeping an open line of communication with the school also can help both the parents and teacher understand if there is a variance between the progress seen at home and the progress at school. Parents will want to know that the child’s reading improvement is noticeable at the classroom level.

Not every school reading program will work for every student, and the same could hold true for reading programs used at home. For this reason, parents might want to research different programs and try them out, too.

Reading programs at home should keep children engaged. Stories also should be immersive and hold the child’s interest. Parents might wish to sit with their child as they use different programs to find out what program works best for the child…and addresses their struggles, too.

Readability offers a free seven-day trial that lets children have access to all the program’s features. Parents should encourage their child to use the program for several lessons during the trial period to gain a firm understanding of the program and to acclimate to the AI tutor.

Ready to use Readability’s AI tutor? Try Readability for free today!