Rated R words and sexual innuendo below
The front cover looks harmless enough.
"Stuck in the Middle"
by Ariel Schrag
It appears to be a book containing comics about middle school:
Look on the spine...
Something else really disturbing is that this book is rated a 3.0 on the Accelerated Reader scale. Look there, on the spine below, you'll see that this book is an "AR" book, which means that students can take an Accelerated Reader quiz and earn points (some schools give out prizes for points). Accelerated Reader is a company owned by Renaissance Learning, Inc. (Renaissance Learning has 4 registered lobbyists in TN)
Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding our quiz on Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age, a graphic novel edited by Ariel Schrag.
We understand your concern and have taken steps to improve our book record. Please note that our ATOS readability level for this text is 3.0, which indicates that a student reading at a third-grade level can read and understand the text. The ATOS readability formula is not based on content, but calculates three variables to measure the text complexity level of a book. Graphic novels tend to produce a lower readability level because of the short sentence structure. To help educators and parents guide students to appropriate books, we also provide an interest level for each book, based on publisher and review source recommendations. The Interest Level indicates the grade level for which the content may be most appropriate. We recommend that the interest level always be used in conjunction with the ATOS book level when guiding students to books.
In recent years, we also began to add disclaimers to summaries that alert parents and educators to what may be objectionable content for some. This quiz was produced before that process was put into place, but has now been updated. The revised summary will be available in AR BookFinder with this week’s update, on Thursday, March 6. Because of your concern, we have also raised the Interest Level from MG to MG+ (Grade 6 and above,) more closely matching review sources. You may want to coordinate with the AR coordinator at your child’s school to make sure their database is also updated.
We provide quizzes on a wide range of books, for all genres and levels. Providing a quiz on any particular title neither endorses nor condones that book. Our products, including AR quizzes, provide a service to our customers on books that students are already reading. Our title selection criteria follows that of most schools and librarians, including national review sources, award winning books, and recommended reading lists. This particular title received starred reviews from four national sources, including a review by School Library Journal.
I hope my explanations have helped address your concerns. We have several articles that further explain our processes. If you would like more information sent to you, please let me know. If you have additional comments or concerns, please feel free to contact me directly.
Renaissance Learning, Inc.
Due to Momma Bears contacting them, the AR people adjusted the "Interest level" to Middle Grades (6th grade and up) and included in the description that the text and pictures contain profanity and sexual references. (Great... middle school kids will love that. It will probably be the most popular book in the library!) However, this book is still listed as a level 3.0 book though on the AR quizzing system, so when children go to the school library and are given a "reading level" of books to select from, this one is still technically appropriate for children reading at a 3rd grade level.
Check with your child's principal and/or librarian to make sure this book isn't in your child's school. You could even forward them this blog. You might want to check for other books by this author, as well. This author's books appear juvenile, but contain very mature content. Don't judge a book by its cover, especially in this case.
Most importantly: Know what your kids are reading. Look at what they've checked out of the library. Also ask them what they're learning on the computers at school. Parents never see these AR quiz questions; teachers don't see the quiz questions either since the quizzes are done on computer. We trust that the AR people will pick quality books and rate them appropriately. We can't be that naive anymore.
We can't be that naive with their educational products, either...
Many students use STAR Reading, STAR Math, Accelerated Math, Successful Reader, or "English in a Flash" computerized interventions at school. Guess what? Owned by the same company. AR is designed to integrate with those programs, combining a student's information together in one account and storing it in a cloud in cyberspace. In fact, in many schools, a student's reading level is determined by their STAR reading test. But do you know what questions they're asked on those computerized assessments? What reading examples are given for them to learn from? There's no textbook to inspect. There are no papers coming home for parents to look at. It is all done online on computers. How can we trust that this company has our children's best interests at heart?
Renaissance Learning just got a massive $40 million investment from Google. There's big money to be made in educational products! Profit is the motive of these companies, not rating appropriate books for our children.
Stay vigilant, Momma Bears!
Know what your cubs are being exposed to.