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All right, all right, an issue has finally pressed me into unlurking.
Please pardon the inclusion of both introduction and response in this
posting, but briefly - I'm a librarian who completed her master's in
December 1996 with a concentration in children's and YA services for
schools, but who has not completed teacher certification.  For five years
I've been a biomedical librarian, and currently I'm applying to return to
my true love, either by interim licensure and a position (I'm a practicum
and two courses short of licensure here in Tennessee; at the time I
graduated full separate licensure was required), or by M.Ed. with initial
certification, mostly likely in elementary education (K-8 certification,
K-4 emphasis/notation).  I really do love teaching and schools. . .and
children!. . .and I'm willing to do whatever I must to step into that new
role.  In addition, I'm the daughter of a 32-years-and-counting elementary
teacher (predominantly grades K-1), so it feels more like something old
than something new. ;)  It was from the "teacher's kid" vantage-point as
well as student that I witnessed waves of whole language emphasis,
site-based councils, and KERA (the Kentucky Education Reform Act), etc,
etc. . .and anyhow, I've rambled more than enough.  You know who I am, and
you've heard more than enough of my chattering on *that* subject.  :}

I wanted to cheer on the message Elizabeth Gillies so nicely presented
regarding AR for above average reader first graders - admittedly I don't
have classroom experience in the use or non-use of AR at that level, but
I'm not inclined to feel it's a good thing under the circumstances
described.  Stepping onto my soapbox for a moment, one reason that I chose
school librarianship is the difference a school librarian can potentially
make for all children. . .including gifted students, advanced students,
etc.  Fortunately, I had very positive school experiences, but such is not
the case for all children, as we all know. . .and in first grade I was the
sort of student described:  reading since age two, I was already writing my
own stories, pretending to be a wood-elf on the rare occasions I wasn't
pretending to be a hobbit, and devouring books galore.  My teacher,
however, was a young teacher with a classroom full of students, including
several in the "low" ability range, many of whom also had disclipine
problems of some sort.  Consequently, I was mostly left to fend for myself
in the matter of what to do while she was helping them.  This was not the
last time the situation occurred, though the division of ability-grouped
reading in succeeding years did help.  From kindergarten forward, I
frequently found myself either left with nothing to do while teachers
worked with slower students, or - sometimes - set to additional work.

Goodness, we can all see the joy in THAT, now, can't we?  Imagine if those
of us who had units completed in advance. . .or were in some way considered
"gifted" teachers or "exceptional" in our abilities had to teach extra
classes compared to those considered "average."  What if we were expected
to produce more professional literature or additional units?  Many of us
would likely resent that, and I don't remember being particularly different
as a child.  Gifted or advanced children should not be subjected to
additional work solely for the point of it. . .while AR may be a temporary
substitute, there is indeed the potential for creating problems between
class subgroups which may already be at risk for friction, something that
is less the case for suggestions such as those Elizabeth mentions in her
posting (writing letters to the main character of a story, story maps,
etc., etc.).  Many of these would be easily adaptable for other children as
needed, and most importantly, they provide positive learning experiences of
a creative nature for the advanced students.  What would AR provide that is
superior to the exploration of reading that literature-based activities
such as these could provide?

My concern is that being advanced or ahead is something that is too often
"punished" via extra work. . .and often the child learns, because of this,
to hide his/her true abilities.  Why finish something twenty minutes early
just because you can when it means you'll have to do two more assignments
while everyone else finishes their one?  That merely teaches the student to
work more slowly, or disguise their pace. . .and those at best.  When
you're turning over coloring-pages to write stories instead of coloring the
rabbit, somehow the idea of being assigned twice as much of the same dull
matter fails to appeal considerably to six-year-old sensibilities.  And who
can blame them?  Which of us would find that amusing?  It's like sitting
through freshman English when you tested out via AP and suddenly having to
write more papers than anyone else.  What's enticing about that?  My
favourite teachers in elementary school were those who, rather than being
"put off" by a child who read Tolkien voraciously and penned her own tales,
encouraged me to continue reading and writing with creative activities. .
.not worksheets, drills, or special programs.

Ultimately it is the love of reading, not the AR points, that will create a
lifelong reader.  I can't imagine what couldn't be gained for these
particular students with AR that could not be gained without it.  They'll
be in second grade soon enough.
And now that I may have thoroughly annoyed everyone with my less than 100%
relevant ramblings. . . . :}

Kimbra Wilder Gish :)
Information & Education Services Librarian
Eskind Biomedical Library
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Nashville, Tennessee 37232-8340
*Please Note!  Opinions expressed are purely my own and should not be
interpreted as representative of my employer or the institution as a whole.
I speak only on my own behalf.*

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