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Parents' Guide

Every year I field a lot of questions about STAR Reading and Accelerated Reader. This guide is an attempt to help answer many of those questions and help you understand how to guide your child to chose the most appropriate books for themselves.

What are STAR Reading and Accelerated Reader?

Don't confuse STAR Reading with STAR Testing. They are completely different beasts.

STAR Reading (a.k.a. STAR) is a reading level accessment software program that is used to get a quick gauge of a childs reading level by having them answer a series of 25 questions. Students typically take the STAR accessment 3 to 4 times a year to monitor progress. STAR uses computer adaptive technology and gets progressively more difficult for each correct answer.

Accelerated Reader (a.k.a. AR) is a reading comprehension software program. Your child takes an online quiz of the AR book that your child has chosen to read.

Will STAR/AR make my child a better reader?

Absolutely Not! Parents are always shocked by that initial statement. A software program by itself will not make your child a better reader, reading more will help make your child a better reader.

However, what we have seen is that many kids are excited about taking the online quiz, so they tend to read more on their own.

More importantly, AR allows your child's teacher to monitor your child's comprehension when she might not otherwise be able to.

What do you mean perfect is too good?

Believe it or not, but we don't actually want your child to always get 100% with AR. This is often a difficult concept for parents. If your child is continually getting 100% on their AR quizzes it could mean that your child is not being challenged appropriately. A child is properly challenged when they average 85-90%. Below 80%, perhaps the books your child is choosing are too challenging for them or they are being distracted in other ways.

Can you explain the AR Reading Level and Point System?

Don't judge a book by it's Reading Level alone. It is important to understand that the Reading Level and Point Level of a book must be considered together.

Let's start with the Point System. Simply stated the point level is based on the word count of a book. A 0.5 point book is a very short book, a 7.0 point book is much longer.

The AR Reading Level is a simply gauge of the difficulty of a book. It is based on Renaissance Learning's ATOS Readability Formula. The ATOS for Books formula is the first and only readability method based on analysis of actual student reading of entire books.

ATOS is based on extensive research on:

  • the characteristics of text that most heavily influence readability
  • the world’s largest database of words used in actual books (more than 30,000 books comprising nearly 500 million words)
  • comprehension statistics from 30,000 students reading almost a million books

ATOS also calculates readability from full-text computer scans of all the words in a book, rather than just sample passages employed by most
other formulas.

For all these reasons, ATOS most accurately measures book difficulty, especially for hard-to measure books such as these:

  • “high-low” books, which are read by struggling readers and often are overestimated by Flesch-Kincaid and other widely accepted readability formulas
  • emergent reader books, which often are underestimated by other formulas
  • nonfiction books, which often are more difficult than fiction books but are underestimated by other formulas
  • long books, which can also be underestimated by other formulas


How can I help my child choose the right book?

The first step is to have your child choose a book they want to read. It's more important to instill the love for reading than for a child to be discouraged from reading.

The STAR Reading software program will give your child's teacher a reading range called a ZPD (zone of proximal developement). Unfortunately, this reading level is only part of the equation and does not take into account the length of a book, so you need to also take into account the number of points a book is rated.


REMEMBER: Just because a book is at your child's reading-level does not mean the content of the book is appropriate for your child.