For those not familiar with AR, it's a software program that tracks student reading comprehension progress through online quizzes. There's nothing wrong with quizzing students on what they've read to check for comprehension, of course. The problem is that because of how the program works, all books are categorized according to reading level, without regard for interest level or age appropriateness. That, and, you have to buy the quizzes and not all books are part of the program.
"Why's that so bad?," you ask? Well...
1. I've heard many complaints about how the program is implemented in schools. Particularly, that students are only allowed to read books at or slightly above their reading level. So, if they outgrow the comprehension level of their favorite author or series, the teacher/parent does not allow them to read those books anymore. This is done in an effort to encourage them to grow, but stopping a child from reading things they enjoy? That doesn't sound right. Plus, it skews the answer to the question "What are kids reading?" if they're only allowed to read certain books in the first place.
2. In order for a book to "count," the student must take the test. Not every book published has an AR test. Even if the test exists, the school must purchase tests for titles individually. With new books being published all the time, this can get expensive. If a student reads a book and their school doesn't own the test, that reading isn't captured in the study results.
3. Not all schools use AR, so the only schools included in the study are those that have enough money to purchase and sustain AR.
But I digress!
The actual results of the study seem to be fairly in tune with my observations of student reading at my own middle school. The top twenty titles for grades 6-8 (page 24 of study) include mostly series titles like those from Twilight, Eragon, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and for the 6th graders, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Those are all very popular with my students. But so are Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars and Oppel's Airman. I was surprised to see the Nonfiction list (page 34) include titles as gritty as Pelzer's A Child Called It (#1) - especially when contrasted against Grogan's Marley: A Dog Like No Other (#2), a made-for-young-readers version of his heartwarming tale of canine hilarity.
I don't feel like the study shed any amazing light on anything. With all the talk I've heard from librarians about the popularity of Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why I was surprised not to see it appear on any lists, but nothing else really stood out to me.