School works to enhance reading

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

BAY, AR (KAIT) - Teachers at a Region 8 school work to enhance reading with students.

The Bay school system has brought back the Accelerated Reading Program.

Bay High School Principal Brad Brannen said this was something he felt the program could be a valuable tool he wanted to return to students when he stepped into his administrative position.

"It's a program used to help kids want to read," Brannen said. "To help them find a passion for reading. We have certain books that are obligated for AR (Accelerated Reading) reading. At the beginning of summertime, I got together with Mrs. Una Brown and we talked about bringing the AR reading back and what kind of point system we were going to come up with."

Students read a book for points.

The harder the book, the more points they can receive.

After reading the book, the students take an online exam that determines their reading comprehension of the content.

"We just hope that more kids develop a passion for reading," Brannen said. "That's what we really need. Over the past two years that we haven't had Accelerated Reading, we've seen a drop off on books being checked out. Kids' reading on their own and things like that."

Brannen said they've already seen an improvement with students in the short amount of time they've brought it back.

"Since we brought the program back this year," Brannen said. "The checkout ratio is up 22% as far as books being checked out. And that has a lot to do with bringing back the reading program. It also helps us with accept plans and school improvement plans. It allows us to look at their level of reading and things they can improve as far as strengths and weaknesses and allows us to take that data and put it into our school improvement plan."

Brannen said you can see the difference in their students.

"We hope it just keeps growing and growing," Brannen said. "I mean, it's working great. When you see kids out in the commissary and their reading whereas before they were sitting out in the commissary and they were just talking. But you see a lot of kids reading now and you hear the buzz now about we got to get our books read for Mrs. Brown and that's always a big deal in the past since I've been here and since this went away and you hadn't really heard that. It's a good feeling that the kids are learning and wanting to read and get that done."

The Accelerated Reading Program is mandatory in grades 7 through 12.

"We take grades on it," Brannen said. "It counts as 10% of your English grade and Mrs. Brown is the one who takes care of that part. And then, in Kindergarten through 6th grade, it's not going down for a grade. But they encourage AR reading and to take the test to get incentives for things like recess time or get to go on a field trip they're putting together for the kids at the end of the year for the kids who score so much on the AR reading is going to get to go on that field trip. Just make it incentive based."

Brannen said he spoke with teachers and they decided to change a few things in the program to make it more effective for their students.

"All of it, K through 12, has been changed dramatically," Brannen said. "I felt like, and I've talked to a lot of teachers about this when we were bringing it back, they all said the testing and things as far as comprehension level, the questions on the test don't always match up and that's really why we got away from it in the first place. And Mrs. Brown is just doing a few things to tweak that, the AR test through Star Reading and things like that. But Mrs. Brown is also a great teacher and will go in depth a lot more about what they're doing."

Brannen said when they tried implementing the program the first time in its original format, things didn't go so well.

"We had it before," Brannen said. "Where the numbers were so high in high school for the kids to reach. They were reading, reading, reading, reading books. And they were just trying to cram them all in and it got to where they really didn't' like reading. The purpose of it is to find a way to enjoy reading. So, we've lowered the amount of books, I think it's five is what they get per nine weeks, depending on how many points each book is worth. A book can be worth five to twenty-five to thirty-five points and up. It just depends on what level you are and how big the book might be. We made it to where the kids who don't read at a higher level, can read five books to get those points. Whereas before, they might have had to read ten or fifteen books to get to that point system."

Brannen said he and the teachers have worked together to make it help each of their students excel.

"Mrs. Brown has come up with ways," Brannen said. "For kids who read the bigger thirty-five point books and so on, she's come up with incentives to give them to make sure they will continue to try and do that."

Brannen said they're happy with what they're seeing so far.

"I'm happy with it so far," Brannen said. "There's still things we're working on. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Brown and I are going to meet again next week to try and tweak a couple more things. She sent me an email not too long ago talking about a few things she wanted me to know and kind of adjust it. It's kind of an ongoing thing, to try and get it exactly like we all want it. And I don't want it to be about what I want. I want to make sure the teachers are getting what they want out of it, along with what I want out of it also. And, of course, the kids as long as they enjoy reading and want to read then they're getting what we want them to get out of it right now."

For more information about Bay High School, log onto their website.

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