One of the first shortcomings of Accelerated Reader is that even though it has quizzes for a lot of books, its database is still a fairly small part of the vast pool of books available to young readers. For example, in a single year, there are over 25,000¹ children’s and young adult books published, yet Accelerated Reader adds only 6,000² quizzes to its database — less than a quarter of new publications. Replicated year over year, this means that students are limited to selecting books from only a small subset of the many wonderful titles available to them.
This limited pool makes it especially hard for them to discover less known authors and books from smaller publishers.³
With Bookroo, our unique Dynamic Quiz System allows students to verify reading for any book by combining traditional multiple choice style quiz questions with opportunities for critical reasoning. This is done through a combination of prompting students to verify their reading by answering existing questions and using their reasoning skills to create new questions. To ensure quality and accuracy, Bookroo reviews each submission.
Additionally, after quiz takers answer a quiz question, they can provide constructive feedback on the question. They’re asked to rate the difficulty of the question, and they’re asked to analyze whether the question is a good question for assessing whether someone has actually read the book. This promotes critical thinking and enhances metacognition skills, or a student’s ability to “think through a problem or approach a learning task, select appropriate strategies, and make decisions about a course of action to resolve the problem or successfully perform the task." ⁴
Most importantly, by making all books available as an option for reading, Bookroo offers a better opportunity for students to find and discover books they’ll truly enjoy, which will help them progress as readers readers.
Another problem with Accelerated Reader is that it combines verifying reading with a point system in which books are worth different amounts of points. The result, which we can confirm from firsthand experience, is that students often select books based only on how many points a book is worth, instead of choosing books that they actually want to read. One former teacher described an author visit in which students had a great time learning about the author and thought his book sounded very interesting, but the first thing asked when it was time for questions was how many AR points his book was worth.⁵ We remember our own days in school of choosing the shortest book worth the most points.
In The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller writes, “Programs like Accelerated Reader . . . in which books are assigned a point value and students must complete a multiple-choice test after reading them, are the worst distortion of reading I can think of.”
Bookroo, in contrast, does not tie any points to validation quizzes. Instead, it awards digital reward points, which can be redeemed for new avatars and collectibles in our digital rewards shop, when a student marks a book as read. Because we separate rewards from verification, students select books that interest them, not because they are worth a certain number of points.
Accelerated Reader ties its quizzes to recommended reading levels. While it’s leveling system is widely used, it can overemphasize reading levels at the cost of reading what looks interesting. As one educator has observed, “Content, theme, and sophistication of thought matter . . . are critically important factors to consider when students select books for independent reading.”⁶
In addition to allowing students to discover books by reading level, Bookroo also guides students to books based on themes, tone, setting, topic, and more.
Another criticism of Accelerated Reader is that it puts too much pressure on students to pass quizzes and earn points. Students can shun other students who fail to contribute adequately to a class goal.
With Bookroo, validation quizzes are not connected to reading challenges. Instead, teachers can create separate class reading challenges, or if individual reading challenges are best for their students, they can easily set up an individual reading challenge for each student. But these challenges are not based on points earned from reading quizzes.
Additionally, Accelerated Reader quizzes are more complex and involved than is necessary for keeping students honest about their reading. Accelerated Reader quizzes have also resulted in making some students feel discouraged about reading when they don’t score high enough to pass or get the full points from the test. One parent described how her daughter thoroughly enjoyed a book she read and talked about it with her mom while reading. Then she only scored 60% on the Accelerated Reader quiz for the book, and suddenly she no longer liked the book.⁷
Our quizzes, in contrast, are intentionally straightforward. They are designed to be easy for someone who has read the book, and hard for someone who has not. Making validation more difficult than this starts to make it intimidating, anxiety producing, and detrimental to developing readers.
Accelerated Reader questions are also focused mainly on recalling facts. As Donalyn Miller writes, “Shifting the purpose for reading a book toward the memorization of plot details and away from an overall appreciation for the books changes how students read.” Bookroo quizzes, as already mentioned, employ a two prong approach to validate reading and develop student’s cognitive and critical reasoning abilities.
Accelerated Reader has high start up costs both in terms of time and money.
Teachers and students experience a steep learning curve when setting up and getting used to administering and monitoring the AR system. This means lots of time spent learning how the system works and how it’s navigated.
Accelerated Reader also costs a lot to set up and maintain. While pricing is not clearly displayed (which is never a good sign), the industry understanding is that AR charges an initial set up fee of $1,599. After that, the cost is $4 per student per year. Plus, quizzes have to be purchased separately. Set up is confusing and requires understanding many terms and branches of Accelerated Reader’s parent company.
In contrast, teachers can easily test out Bookroo in their own classroom with a free 30-day trial period. After that, the cost is $149 per year for a class of up to 35 students, or $4 per student per year for schools and districts.
Additionally, Bookroo’s modern platform is incredibly intuitive for both teachers and students to navigate. Quizzes are tied right into the process for students to build their reading journey. As soon as they mark a book as read, they can rate, review, and take the quiz for the book. In this way, verifying reading (if a teacher chooses to use quizzes to do so) is a natural, fluid part of a student’s reading journey.
Additionally, while Accelerated Reader only offers book quizzes, a subscription to Bookroo Classroom offers teachers a whole array of tools to support class reading, including automated reading logs, simple reading challenges, digital reward shops, and sophisticated book recommendations.