For more than 20 years, the Accelerated Reader (AR) program has been helping kids read children’s books they enjoy, at their own pace. Readers of all levels can choose an AR book, read their way through it, then take a computerized quiz to assess their understanding and sometimes earn class credit.
Educators across the US use it, and hundreds of thousands of kids across the country read millions of pages every year because of it. If you’re a parent of a child of any age, you’ve probably already heard of AR.
But if you’re a parent who is looking to contribute more to your child’s reading goals and even help them find new books to read, or if you’re a writer of children’s books looking to keep up with trends, find stories comparable with your own work, or identify the reading level of your work, the Accelerated Reader Bookfinder website can be a great resource.
This blog aims to provide both parents and kids lit authors an introduction and overview of how to use the AR Bookfinder site. Let’s take a look!
Using AR Bookfinder Website
Whether you’re a parent or you write children’s books of any level — from elementary to mid-grade, juvenile, or YA books — use the AR Bookfinder website for basic research.
Now, when I was a kid participating in Accelerated Reader, there was no website–there was no internet. If I wanted to know what reading level a book was or how many points it was worth, I had to actually go to the library and examine the sticker on the spine of the book or ask the librarian. How times have changed!
When you first land on the AR Bookfinder welcome page, you need to identify yourself as a student, parent, teacher, or librarian. Whether you’re a parent or a writer of children’s books, you can use the “parent” option to browse the website without creating an account.
For Parents: Confirm AR Children's Books, Reading Levels, & Points
Once you have identified yourself as a parent, use the “Quick Search” option to enter a title that your kid is interested in, to confirm whether it is an AR book, what reading level it is, and how many points it’s worth. You can also search an author name to see which of their works are AR eligible.
I’m lucky, personally. My kid is an excellent reader(!), but I have to constantly remind him to collect his AR points and meet his goal to earn the grade for his language arts class. Luckily, most of the books he’s interested in are in the AR Bookfinder database.
We are sometimes at our favorite local thrift bookstore or the public library, or a friend will offer to let my son borrow a book, and with a quick search, we can find out whether a title he’s interested in is an AR book.
(In fact, one of our favorite books of 2022 — See You in the Cosmos — was one we borrowed from the public library then found out on AR Bookfinder that it was worth 10 points!)
For titles that may have multiple versions in print, it may be important to look more closely at the details of each book on your search results list. Some versions may be abridged, a graphic novel or illustrated version, or an annotated or enhanced version of the book–all of which might affect the reading level and point value.
Advanced Search Options
If you’re not sure of the title or author name, or if you want to check more details about a book series, use the “Advanced Search” tab for more search options.
By using the Advanced Search tab, you can peruse a specific children’s book series to see which titles earn AR points, or you can choose the “Interest Level” (i.e., reading level) to browse titles that might appeal to your child.
Select from Lower Grade (K-3), Middle Grade (4-8), Middle Grade (6+), and Upper Grades (9-12) to filter a list that meets your child’s unique reading needs.
Use the Additional Criteria options to select a topic that your child is interested in (not just genres, but think of this more similar to tags, like “adventure” or “history”), as well as filter to look at only fiction or nonfiction children’s book titles.
If you have no ideas or starting points for your search, and your kid needs suggestions of children’s books, keep reading! The section below details how to use the “Collections” tab on the AR Bookfinder website to search for new titles, authors, or series your little one may love.
AR Bookfinder Tips For Children's Book Writers
As a new or still-learning children’s book writer, it can be tricky to know exactly what reading level or grade level you’re writing for. These “levels” may differ based on subjective criteria such as word choice, sentence structure, and topic.
Maybe you have an idea for a kid’s book, and you’re not sure who your audience is or exactly what age they are.
Or maybe you’re prepping your query letter and submission info for agents and you need to gather titles of children’s books that are comparable to yours. Either way, using the “Collections” tab in AR Bookfinder can help.
Explore "Collections" for Comps & Reading Level
Writers (and parents!) can use the “Collections” tab to explore two things: recent award-winning children’s books and trending and popular kids books.
Now, it’s possible that these lists will overlap, but just because something is award winning doesn’t mean it’ll be popular! And just because a title is popular with kids in a certain age group doesn’t mean it was critically acclaimed.
Checking out both options in the Collections tab can give you a full picture of what’s going on in children’s book publishing and how to position your title.
When you select the Collections, tab you will see these two main options to peruse through the database.
By selecting the “plus sign” next to one of the options, you expand the menu for more specific information.
Under “Awards,” for example, you can find links to specific children’s book award lists, such as the Newberry Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award.
On the other hand, selecting the plus sign next to “What Kids Are Reading” opens a sub-menu with the three most recent calendar years. Select a year to open the next sub-menu, which says “Top 20 Fiction/Nonfiction Books of [YEAR]”.
When you select this menu, the next sub-menu opens, separating out each grade with a link. You can then explore the top 20 books for kindergarteners, first graders, etc., all the way through high school seniors.
For example, the Top 20 for 11th grade in 2020 includes classic titles such as The Catcher in the Rye and Huckleberry Finn, along with contemporary titles such as Divergent and The Hate U Give.
Obviously, many eleventh graders are reading and taking AR quizzes on titles required for a class curriculum, but it’s also obvious that many eleventh graders are continuing to read children’s and YA books in which they’re interested and which are also AR books they can earn points on.
Track Titles & Reading Goals with Goodreads!
Although the AR Bookfinder website does have a “favorites” feature, which they call the AR Bookbag, that allows you to save a list of titles; however, when using a Parent account, the Bookbag empties/clears its history when you close your web browser. That can be inconvenient for long-term tracking and ideas!
Instead, our editor Cortni suggests creating a Goodreads account if you don’t already have one (and connect with Cortni on Goodreads!) Using Goodreads’ “shelf” feature, you can easily track all the books you’ve read, the ones you’re currently reading, and ones you want to read.
Since a Goodreads account will last far beyond your child’s school years, it can be an excellent long-term tool to keep your kid reading far into adulthood.
And for authors of children’s books, a Goodreads membership and active account can help you connect with your readers and keep them informed of your work and upcoming releases.