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An evaluation of the Accelerated Reader program in grades 3–5 on reading vocabulary, comprehension, and attitude in an urban southeastern school district in Virginia

, Old Dominion University, United States

Old Dominion University . Awarded


The purpose of this study was to study recreational reading in third, fourth, and fifth grade urban students in a school district in Southeastern Virginia. The widely-used Accelerated Reader (AR) was the tool examined in the promotion of recreational reading. Recreational reading studies have been done on a broad economic spectrum (Advantage Learning Systems, 1997; Paul, 1996; Paul, VanderZee, Rue & Swanson, 1996). A gap in knowledge exists as to whether recreational reading programs, using AR, are effective with the urban elementary students. The major research questions determined if recreational reading, using Accelerated Reader, influenced reading vocabulary, comprehension, and attitude when socioeconomic status was low.

Using the pre-experimental design, seven Title I schools in urban Southeastern Virginia participated in pre-testing in September/October 1998 and post-testing in May/June 1999. Two independent variables, each with three levels, were manipulated: Type of AR Usage i. e. low (0–20 points), average (21–74 points), high (75 and above points) and Grade Level i.e. three, four, and five. Dependent variables reading vocabulary and comprehension were measured using the Gates-MacGinitie Tests of Reading, Form L (Gates-MacGinitie, 1989) on 755 students. The dependent variable attitude was measured on 515 students who completed The Elementary Reading Attitude Scale (ERAS) (McKenna & Kear, 1990).

Positive findings are as follows: (1) At pretesting 75% or greater of all students tested below grade level in both reading vocabulary and comprehension. At post-testing, after the AR treatment had been administered for the duration of the school year, the percentage of students testing below grade level for reading vocabulary and comprehension significantly decreased. (2) Results of the Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) were significant for Type of AR Usage and Grade Level effect. When descriptive statistics, Type of Reader, were examined, significant differences between pre-test and post-test assessment of vocabulary and comprehension were noted. (3) review of the data for the mean difference in vocabulary and comprehension by Grade Level and Type of AR Usage indicated that as participation in the AR program increased, the mean score differences also increased. (4) An Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) format was used to analyze attitude data revealed that only the “Type of AR Usage” effect was significant.

Negative findings are as follows: (1) Frequency data indicated that 51.8% of the sample earned low AR usage status, whereas 11.8 % of the students obtained high AR usage during the school year. “Below grade level readers” composed 33% of the “low AR usage” group and only 2% of the “high AR usage” group. (2) The computation of the mean difference on the ERAS scores may have been affected by statistical regression. Caution in interpretation of results is recommended.

In summary, results of the current study concluded that recreational reading, using AR, increases reading vocabulary, comprehension, and attitude, providing it is utilized as intended. Recommendations to school administrators and researchers are as follows: (1) Increase Student Participation in recreational reading ensuring proper use of the AR program with a focus on understanding the characteristics and needs of the “below grade level” reader; (2) Study factors affecting reading performance.


Howard, C.A. An evaluation of the Accelerated Reader program in grades 3–5 on reading vocabulary, comprehension, and attitude in an urban southeastern school district in Virginia. Ph.D. thesis, Old Dominion University. Retrieved October 14, 2019 from .

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