On an initial walk-through of the Boys and Girls Club of Rochester, distracted by the pool tables, gym and busy-bodied children running around after school, it is entirely possible to miss one of the most important rooms in the building. However, the children know this room well, as it contains the means by which to gain an “all-access” pass to the rest of the facility. It’s the reading room – where the Accelerated Reader Program is located. In this room, children select books to read according to a pre-assigned reading level based on their current abilities. Lining the room are computers and community volunteers who await children to find their folders, pick out books and start reading! Depending on the age and reading level of a child, books can be read by the child, with the child or to the child. Regardless, each book the child reads is documented and after the last page is turned, the children take a comprehension test online to gauge how well they understood the content of the book. When a child passes the test, they receive a reward – a piece of candy, a star sticker towards a special prize, and their “all-access” pass which allows them into the gym and other activities. The room becomes an exciting and enjoyable place for children as their first stop of the afternoon, with a silent hustle and bustle as exciting as the next-door basketball game. Some children will choose to read just one book but other children are particularly enthusiastic and go on to read four or five. Other positive motivators are used during these sessions such as making a special announcement when a child reaches their 25th book, and a roaring applause from the audience erupts. These small encouragements and the overall mission of the program make reading just what it should be for kids – fun.
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