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Accelerated Reader (AR) is a reading program designed specifically to enhance and develop students’ reading skills.  AR works by assessing the students reading age and producing their zone of proximal development (ZPD). The ZPD allows students to read books at their optimal learning level and does this by offering each student a personalised book range.  As long as a student is reading a book within this ZPD range, they will make significant progress towards developing a stronger level of comprehension and fluency in reading.

For more information, please see the website of Renaissance Learning who run AR:


1. How are reading ages assessed?

Each student in Year 7 and 8 takes an online reading assessment (STAR test), which consists of 34 multiple choice questions.  Each answer given dictates the level of the next question, which results in a very specific and tailored reading age for every student.  The questions assess their ability to de-code words and their level of comprehension.

2. What are book levels and why do the students have to choose books within their levels?

Each reading assessment that a student completes gives us their zone of proximal development (ZPD).  This is the level in which they will make most progress.  The book levels issued are specific to each student’s results, and by reading within these levels they will make the most effective progress.  Each student has a book level range, for example, 3.5 – 5.5. 

Books at the lower end of the range should be comfortable for the student to read and they should achieve 100% on these books early on.  As they move up through the levels the books will become more challenging for them and may take longer to read.  A book at the top of their range should not be attempted until they have shown competency throughout the lower levels.  Students may be able to de-code words in higher level books, however these will challenge their overall comprehension of the text and will slow progression.

3. How often should a student read their AR book?

AR recommends that students read their AR book between 20 and 45 minutes every day to ensure they make significant progress.

4. What are book quizzes?

Each book has a points value attached.  These are formulated by AR and are based on the difficulty of the book, for example, sentence length and level of vocabulary used.  Longer books are not necessarily worth more points!  When a student finishes their book, they log onto their AR account and take a short quiz assessing their level of understanding of the book.  The base pass rate is 60%.  80% is the optimum score for showing that a student has adequately understood the book while being suitably challenged.  If a student is regularly achieving 100% they will need to be choosing books higher up their levels to continue being challenged. If a student achieves less than 80%, it is advisable they select books with a lower level.

Students should take the quizzes as soon as they finish a book and they should have the book with them when they take the quiz. It is a comprehension rather than a memory test and students are discouraged from taking tests on books they have read in the past.

6. Can I check a book’s level from home?

Yes. AR is a national program and is not limited to the books in our library. Book levels can be checked here:

Recommended reading

The list of Key Stage Three books below has the levels in brackets. Students should receive their updated ZPD level termly, with the final result of the year being sent home with summer tracking.

Don’t Do It! (2.5) – Helen Orme
Point Blanc: The Graphic Novel (2.6) – Anthony Johnston
Night of the Scrawler (2.7) – Michael Dahl
Death Match (3.0) – Andy Croft
Skeleton Key: The Graphic Novel (3.0) – Anthony Johnston
Goosebumps (3.2 – 4.6) – R.L. Stine
A Greyhound of a Girl (3.3) – Roddy Doyle
Football Academy series (3.4 – 3.7) – Tom Palmer
Tom Gates series (3.8 – 4.4) – L Pichon
The 13-Storey Treehouse (3.9) Andy Griffiths (part of the Treehouse series)
The Private Blog of Joe Cowley (4.1)/Return of the Geek (4.2) – Ben Davis
The Crossover (4.3) – Kwame Alexander
The Midnight Gang (4.4) – David Walliams
The Unforgotten Coat (4.4) – Frank Cottrell Boyce
River of Ink: Genesis (4.5) – Helen Dennis
Candyfloss (4.5) – Jacqueline Wilson
Wonder (4.8) – R.J Palacio
Dropzone (4.8) – Andy McNab
Shadow (4.9) – Michael Morpurgo
Matilda (5.0) – Roald Dahl
Scorpia (5.0) – Anthony Horowitz (part of the Alex Rider series)
Sands of the Scorpion (5.1) – Bear Grylls
Swallows and Amazons (5.1) – Arthur Ransom
Private Peaceful (5.2) – Michael Morpurgo
Grandpas Great Escape (5.2) – David Walliams
The Hunger Games series (5.3) – Suzanne Collins
The Chronicles of Narnia (5.4 – 5.9) – C.S Lewis
Journey to the River Sea (5.6) – Eva Ibbotson
Survival (5.7) – Chris Ryan (part of the Alpha Force Series)
How to Train Your Dragon series (5.7 – 6.9) – Cressida Cowell
Murder Most Unladylike (5.8) – Robin Stevens
I Am Malala (5.9) – Malala Yousafzai
The Victory Dogs (6.0) – Megan Rix
Mary Poppins (6.1) – P.L Travers
Goth Girls Series (6.5 – 6.6) – Chris Riddell
The Escape (6.6) – Robert Muchamore (part of the Henderson Boys series)
A Christmas Carol (6.7) – Charles Dickens
Little Women (7.5) – Louisa May Alcott
Peter Pan (7.7) – James M Barrie

Blue Peter Book Awards

Rooftoppers (3.5) – Katherine Rundell – Winner 2014
Tom Gates Genius Ideas (mostly) (4.0) – Liz Pichon – Winner 2013
The Astounding Broccoli Boy (4.5) – Frank Cottrell Boyce – Runner up 2016
The Nowhere Emporium (5.0) – Ross MacKenzie – Winner 2016
The Spy who Loved School Dinners (5.3) – Pamela Butchart – Winner 2015
The Boy who Sailed an Ocean in an Armchair (5.4) – Lara Williamson – Runner up 2016

For further ideas on books to read, please visit