The Accelerated Reader program is a guided reading intervention in which teachers are closely involved with student reading of text. It involves two components, the Accelerated Reader software and Accelerated Reader Best Classroom Practices (formerly called Reading Renaissance). The Accelerated Reader software is a computerized supplementary reading program. Accelerated Reader relies on independent reading practice as a way of managing student performance by providing students and teachers feedback from quizzes based on books the students read. Accelerated Reader Best Classroom Practices are a set of recommended principles on guided independent reading (or teachers’ direction of students’ interactions with text) that ensure Accelerated Reader is implemented with integrity.2


Two studies of Accelerated Reader meet the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards. One of the studies evaluated 572 students from grades K to 3 attending 11 schools in a southern school district in the United States. The second study included 32 students in grade 3 attending one school in the Pacific Northwest.3

Based on these two studies, the WWC considers the extent of evidence for Accelerated Reader to be medium to large for comprehension and small for reading fluency and general reading achievement. No studies that meet WWC evidence standards with or without reservations examined the effectiveness of Accelerated Reader in the alphabetics domain.


Accelerated Reader was found to have no discernible effects on reading fluency, mixed effects on comprehension, and potentially positive effects on general reading achievement.

  Alphabetics Reading fluency Comprehension General reading achievement
Rating of effectiveness              
 No discernible effects  Mixed effects  Potentially positive effects
Improvement index4 na  +3 percentile points Average: 0 percentile points
Range: –12 to +12
percentile points
Average: +16 percentile points
Range: +10 to +25
percentile points

na = not applicable

1 This report has been updated to include reviews of 62 studies that have been released since 2005. A complete list and disposition of all studies reviewed is provided in the references.
2 The descriptive information for this program was obtained from a publicly available source: the program’s website (www.renlearn.com/ar/, downloaded July 2008). The WWC requests developers to review the program description sections for accuracy from their perspective. Further verification of the accuracy of the descriptive information for this program is beyond the scope of this review.
3 The evidence presented in this report is based on available research. Findings and conclusions may change as new research becomes available.
4 These numbers show the average and range of student-level improvement indices for all findings across the two studies.
Program Information

Developer and contact

Developed by Judi and Terry Paul, Accelerated Reader is distributed by Renaissance Learning, Inc. Address: PO Box 8036, Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54495-8036, USA. Email: answers@renlearn.com. Web: www.renlearn.com/ar/. Telephone: (800) 338-4204.

Scope of use

The Accelerated Reader software prototype was created in 1984. Accelerated Reader Best Classroom Practices (formerly called Reading Renaissance) was first introduced to educators in 1996 through professional development seminars. According to the developers, more than 63,000 schools nationwide are using Accelerated Reader and Renaissance Learning’s other reading programs in a wide variety of academic settings.


A primary best practice recommendation for use of Accelerated Reader is a dedicated 30–60 minute block of time for reading practice. Depending on the ages and skill levels of the students, three activities may occur during a reading block: reading texts to a child, reading texts to a child using a paired-reading technique, or independent reading by the child. As children develop decoding skills, they transition to guided independent reading. Initially, students take a norm-referenced, standardized measure of general reading achievement to determine their independent reading level—the level at which books are neither too easy nor too difficult and students are able to read without frustration. Then students select books within a recommended readability range to read independently. After reading each book, students take a comprehension quiz and earn points based on the number of correct responses, the length of the book, and the readability level of the book. Teachers use data from the quizzes to monitor student progress, adjust students’ reading ranges, or identify students who may need more targeted interventions. Teachers use points to set individual student goals for the quantity and quality of student reading practice and to monitor the student’s progress. Accumulation of points is intended to motivate student learning; teachers also may choose to implement a system of rewards, though Renaissance Learning does not recommend or require the use of extrinsic rewards.


The school version of Accelerated Reader software can be ordered for $4 a student per year, with a one-time school fee of $1,599. Professional development to learn Accelerated Reader Best Classroom Practices is available at additional cost and can be customized in terms of length and mode of delivery (onsite, telephone/online, regional seminars). The average annual cost of full implementation, which varies depending on the school size and components implemented, ranges from $2,000 to $10,000 per school year.