May 6, 2008

Most Popular Children's Books? Really?

Over at 100 Scope Notes, he reprints part of a list from the Washington Post. It uses data collected from Accelerated Reader to determine the most popular kids books. Go take a peek, then come back. Jay Mathews has a commentary in the paper about it as well.

All good books, right? No argument here. Stephen Krashen is skeptical, though:

"The survey was based on books children chosen for the Accelerated Reader program, a program in which children are tested on the content of books and earn points, which are exchanged for prizes. It is likely that their motivation is to earn points and get prizes. The results of this survey do not necessarily reflect what children read for their own intrinsic pleasure, but might only reflect what they read in order to earn points on quizzes and get prizes.

After reviewing the research, I have concluded that Accelerated Reader has not been shown to be better than simply providing good books and time to read.There is also evidence suggesting that providing rewards for reading results in less reading in the long term: Rewards send the message that reading must be unpleasant, and people have to be bribed to do it."

I agree, in part. I read aloud to my students quite a bit. They almost always check to see if what I've read is a an AR book. I think that list is based on what the teachers are choosing to read aloud.

Just look at the fifth grade list. Hatchet and Holes? I love those books, but I seriously doubt those are the top self-selected reading by most fifth graders. Either Diary of a Wimpy Kid doesn't have an AR test, or kids are taking tests on what they hear as well as what they read for themselves.

If 25 fifth graders took between 5 and 20 AR tests all year and they all took the one on Holes because it was a read-aloud, of course Holes will show up as the favorite.