When current seventh-grader Ashley Gaspard earned 1078.50 Accelerated Reader points in a single school year, she had no idea of the magnitude of her achievement. Gaspard was one of just a few students in the entire nation to exceed 1,000 points.
Accelerated Reader (AR) is a program that helps students practice independent reading at their own level and pace. When a student completes a book, he or she takes a short online quiz to determine comprehension.
St. Martin’s students in second, third, and fourth grades participate in the AR program. Students choose their own books to read, rather than having one assigned to them. This makes reading a much more enjoyable experience, as they can select books that are interesting to them.
After seeing Gaspard’s AR progress, current fifth-grader Christopher Lawler was inspired to work hard to beat her record. Last school year he achieved that goal, earning a total of 1098.80 points.
On Monday, Jan. 14, Gaspard’s and Lawler’s AR accomplishments were memorialized by the creation of the Accelerated Reader Wall of Fame in the Lower School Library. The wall features framed photos of the students with engraved placards displaying the students’ names, number of AR points, and year achieved. The dedicated space for the Wall of Fame allows Lower School students, teachers, and guests to view and be inspired by Gaspard and Lawler’s achievements.
“Ashley and Christopher have set the bar for St. Martin’s Lower School higher than any other school in our state,” said Head of Lower School Ford Dieth ’89. “Very few students around the country ever exceed 1,000 points in a given school year. I am so impressed with them for leading the way by their incredible examples.”
The fundamental mission of the Accelerated Reader program is to bring the joy of reading to every student while meeting them at their reading comfort levels.
“Books are magical,” said Lower School Librarian Ethel Madden. “They have the power to teach, to move and change your lives. From Magic Treehouse, Dogman, and Captain Underpants, to Nancy Drew and Harry Potter — reading truly makes a difference. Books transport us to faraway places, ignite our imaginations, and challenge our minds.”
Gaspard says the work she put into the AR program has aided her in her studies in Middle School.
“Reading a lot has helped with my understanding vocabulary, and with knowing how to spell and pronounce words,” said Gaspard. “Right now I’m reading Shakespeare in school, and some of the words he uses I’ve already seen in books I’ve read for fun.”
Lawler agrees. Just one year into Middle School, he is already beginning to understand the benefits of reading so much when he was younger.
“I love getting completely lost in a book,” said Lawler. “I’m seeing now that, in my English class especially, I have a good understanding of grammar and vocabulary. Reading the high-level books helped me gain a lot of points for AR, but it also really pushed me to learn more.”
Gaspard’s advice for younger students aiming to reach 1,000 AR points is simple.
“Before you decide you don’t want to read a book, at least read two chapters of it,” she said. “My mom always told me that and it is true. There is almost always something interesting or something to learn from continuing to read the book all the way through.”
Lawler encourages Lower School students to dig deep and work hard.
“Don’t be afraid to set the bar high and push yourself to achieve it,” he said.
Dieth says there are long-term positive effects from encouraging students to read.
“We have seen, over and over again, that once students experience the magic of reading, they willingly and happily read,” said Dieth. “In fact, you can’t stop them from reading and their reading skills grow dramatically. Research shows that reading has a positive impact on the rest of their lives.”