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Introducing the magic of reading—a mother’s story

By Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist

Humble beginnings

Judi Paul wanted her four children to love reading as much as she did. For her, reading had always been a source of joy. Yet her children didn’t seem to share the same passion. On top of that, she started to notice that her children weren’t reading the classics she enjoyed as a child in school. So one afternoon in 1984, in the basement of her family’s home in little Port Edwards, WI, Judi sat down and curated a list of classic novels, complete with a point system based on difficulty and length, to inspire her children. Judi wanted her children to read things that were at the right level and would inspire a love for reading in each of them. To ensure that her children were comprehending what they were reading, she wrote multiple-choice questions for each novel, awarding her children points after they answered each question correctly. She wrote questions that required reading a novel in its entirety—each related to the main idea or themes throughout. Little did she know, she had just created what would later become Renaissance Accelerated Reader®.

“The Accelerated Reader”

The first school

After initial success with her children, word about Judi’s reading program quickly spread to St. Mary’s Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic School, a nearby parochial school in Wisconsin Rapids, WI. Impressed by the program, teachers at St. Mary’s offered to pay for Judi’s program. Intrigued, Judi’s husband, Terry, helped turn his wife’s reading program into computer software. Thus, Accelerated Reader was born.

Lynda Borgen, one of the first teachers to use Accelerated Reader at St. Mary’s, was impressed. “My students loved gobbling up book after book,” she said. “It gave each one of them a sense of accomplishment when they would finish reading something and pass their Accelerated Reader quiz. We went through a lot of quizzes that first year.” At the time, her daughter was at the school and was also one of the first students to take an Accelerated Reader quiz.

Working closely with Lynda and the other teachers at St. Mary’s, Judi and Terry would listen to their feedback and tweak the program. They would regularly pop into the school and check to see how the program was working. They were genuinely interested in making the program the best it could be for teachers. Teachers loved being able to gauge their students’ comprehension and keep track of what they were reading. Word about the program quickly spread to the other schools in the surrounding area. Two years later, in 1986, Renaissance officially launched as a company, then named Advantage Learning Systems.

A bright future

Now, more than 30 years later, our name has changed, our solution offerings have expanded, and we’ve grown tremendously, but our mission remains the same. Judi and Terry set out to improve education, and knew that teachers were at the heart of every school. To them it was making sure schools—and the ever-important teachers that work in them—have the tools and resources they need to achieve their goals more effectively, ultimately empowering student growth. It is something that we still strongly believe today.

Today, students all over the nation use Accelerated Reader. In fact, Lynda’s grandson now uses it at the same school, since renamed, in Wisconsin Rapids. Lynda can’t help but smile when her grandson comes home excited about the latest Accelerated Reader quiz he’s passed. Although a lot has changed since it was first introduced more than 30 years ago, one thing remains the same about Accelerated Reader—the ability to inspire a love for reading in students everywhere.

Do you use Accelerated Reader in your classroom? What else do you use? How long have you used Renaissance solutions? Let us know in the comments below!

Curious to see how Accelerated Reader has evolved over the years? Explore Accelerated Reader.

Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist
Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist
Ken Stoflet is the communications specialist at Renaissance. He has been with the company since 2015 and can be found crafting anything from a press release to a tweet. In his spare time, Ken enjoys spending time with his friends, lifting, and making trips to the Frozen Tundra to cheer on the Green Bay Packers.


  1. Mary Meyer says:

    Yes, we use Accelerated Reader 360. We started AR 20 years ago when our 5th grade teacher saw it demonstrated at a National Catholic Education Association convention. We needed something fun to encourage students to read good literature. The students love the way they can select books they like, the way they are aided in selecting books they will be most successful with, and the rewards and encouragement they receive for each success. The teachers and parents love the program, also, because the students are so excited about reading. We have been a Model School many times over the past 20 years because our teachers are so dedicated to the success of the program. We have also used the Math programs, but have not had as much success with them.

    • Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist Ken Stoflet, Marketing Communications Specialist says:

      That is great to hear, Mary. Thank you for being such a loyal customer!

  2. Heidi says:

    I use AR in my classroom and I have for about 3-4 years. It is part of our schoolwide reading program.

  3. Rita Platt says:

    I first came across AR 20 years ago. Fun trip down memory lane!

  4. Nicole Erwin says:

    Yep! AR is helping us to create ravenous readers! Thank you!

  5. Fatima Peters says:

    We use Accelerated Reader in our school and have been using AR for six years! In all the years we have been using AR I never knew the story as to how AR started, now I know!!!

  6. Marianne Gaskins says:

    I have been using AR for over 10 years now. First as a classroom teacher and now as a librarian.

  7. Ami K. Edwards says:

    I have used it mostly the last two years. My kids love it!

  8. Lloyd Goldberg says:

    I have been using AR and STAR in my classroom for 10 years. I wouldn’t know what to do without it!

  9. Kimberly says:

    I use AR everyday in my classroom! It certainly helps my students with heir comprehension!

  10. Meredith Sanders says:

    I’ve used Renaissance products for 14 years. I am a math teacher but also incorporate AR when I can. The kids love all the Renaissance products!!

  11. P R says:

    We use STAR Reading Assessments as a data MTTS tool.
    We also use the AR program to individualize students’ reading abilities so they can check out the appropriate reading level in their library books which they check out weekly as a class and daily as an individual after testing.

    Data is used to drive instruction at our school.
    Feedback is also instant to students.

  12. carly says:

    I’ve been teaching 11 years and I’ve had access and used AR and AM every year I’ve taught. While our county pays for AR, our wonderful PTA has always picked up the cost of AM. The programs work!

  13. Sarah Swanzy says:

    I have used AR in my classroom for the past 5 years. It has been very beneficial for my students.

  14. David Keech says:

    I began using AR over 20 years ago. STAR Reading and STAR Math have been in my classrooms for just about as long. Accelerated Math has been my go-to source for accelerating learning, and I read this story with a smile on my face. Lynda Borgen encouraged me and inspired me to pursue Master and Model Classroom status for reading and math, and it is because of Lynda that I have developed a passion for Renaissance Learning products. It is worth noting that Ken Stoflet is a product of an elementary school that used STAR Reading and STAR Math, and used both Accelerated Reader and Accelerated Math on a regular basis. Great history recap!

    • Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist Ken Stoflet, Marketing Communications Specialist says:

      Ah, the memories! I can still remember going to the library to take those tests at Grant Elementary School in Wisconsin Rapids. Thank you for the refresher, David!

  15. Liana Ferrer says:

    I have been using Accelerated Reader in my classroom for the last 7 years. It is a great tool for Comprehension and Vocabulary building.

  16. JoAnn Mayfield says:

    My school has been using AR for 11 years and have seen a huge increase in the number of books being read. I also heard Judy speak at a conference and heard her story there. What a huge impact she has made in the world of education!

    • Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist Ken Stoflet, Marketing Communications Specialist says:

      That is great to hear about the positive impact Renaissance Accelerated Reader has had on your students over the years!

  17. Donna Nichols says:

    AR has been around for a long time!

  18. Mary Moetell says:

    I love the AR program. I love that our reading program of Wonders is associated with it also, so the students have more success and want to read every chance they get.

  19. Nancy Jackson says:

    We started AR about 20 years ago and I remember this story! Our supervisor then superintendent was behind the program and promoted it until she left. It is still going strong. We’ve made Model and Master, then National Honor Roll, and this year are at a slow start on the new Renaissance Royals program. It is so different, our teachers didn’t do it, but as librarian, I did the challenges and may can convince some teachers to do them next year.

  20. Renee Graham says:

    I’ve used AR since 1997!

  21. Maria says:

    I have used the AR Program for more than ten years. It’s really helped some of my reluctant readers get hooked on reading. It’s also helped with increasing my students’ reading fluency.

  22. Emily Carlisi says:

    This is our 4th year. AR is the best thing that ever happened to our school!! Can’t thank you enough!!!

  23. Andre Marshall says:

    Thanks!!! The Judi Paul story reminds me that reading must have motivational interest points to stimulate our children and grandchildren.

  24. Joe Reed says:

    I started Accelerated Reader at my school about 15 years ago when using data to inform instruction was unheard of! This one program had done more to improve reading than anything our district has done in the past 15 years!

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