Sophia Bell did not set out to do anything special.
The fifth-grader at Immaculate Conception Catholic School was just doing what she loves – reading.
So in a way, it just happened that she accumulated 1,009 points in the school’s Accelerated Reader program, far ahead of any other reader in her school.
Sophia’s mother, Rita Bell, said Sophia reads while walking around the house, on the drive to school, and anytime she has to wait.
She often reads at bedtime when she is supposed to be going to sleep.
“She always has a book with her,” Bell said.
Cee Cee Daley, the school’s librarian, said in her 37 years of teaching and 23rd year facilitating the AR program at her schools, she has never had a child come close to 1,000 AR points.
“We had an eighth-grader the first year I was here. She got close to 600 points. That was the closest I have had to that point, even in public school,” she said.
This year, the next highest point total is a third-grader who has 144 points.
The Accelerated Reader program was developed by Renaissance Learning and is used in more than 27,000 schools nationwide. Students take a test at the beginning of the school year to determine their reading level. Then they choose books to read throughout the school year and take quizzes on them. They are graded on their comprehension.
Sophia reads on nearly a seventh-grade level and has tested on 86 books, Daley said.
Daley keeps track of AR points and grade averages and posts them on the wall outside of the media center. She has noticed that doing so has spurred competition among some of the students.
But Sophia has her own chart.
“The average AR books that the average kids reads is a half a point,” Daley said. “You have to read a good many of them to get 10 points to make it to our AR wall.”
She also requires that students carry an 80 grade average.
“If you have 40 points and an 80 average, I’m real happy with that,” she said.
Points are not carried over from year to year. Each students begins the school year with no points, she said.
Sophia transferred to Immaculate Conception this year from a school in Hawaii. Within the first two weeks, she accumulated more than 100 points.
Jeff Walker, the vice president of marketing for Renaissance Learning, said the company does not keep records of individual student performance, but said 1,000 points represents a great deal of reading.
“To put the numbers into perspective, the book Where the Red Fern Grows is 249 pages and equals 11 AR points. A student would have to read about 90 books at that level to add up to 1,000 points,” he wrote in an e-mail, adding, “Please be sure to pass along our congratulations for a fantastic year of reading.”
Sophia prefers to read series, and she loved the Harry Potter books. She said she usually finishes a book in one to two days. When she is between series, she will go back and reread her favorite books until they’re worn.
“(I like) that I can imagine what I’m reading and I can imagine what (the characters) look like and not just see a picture,” she said.