When asked about his favorite books, sixth-grader Chance Buns is quick to reply with several. Of course, there’s Eragon, a fantasy novel about an orphan who finds a blue stone, only to realize that it’s a dragon egg. Then there’s The Unwanteds series, in which children caught showing any kind of creativity—whether in writing, music, or art—are sent away because they’ve broken the law in their country. One of the questions the book tries to answer is why the arts—music, visual art, drama, and writing—matter. What would life be like without them?
For Chance, that means books would not exist—and that is certainly not a world that he wants to think about. After struggling with reading as an elementary school student, he’s now an avid reader—one who discusses books with his mom and dad at the dinner table and can’t wait to get to school to discuss them with his classmates.
The beginnings of a bookworm
Chance’s challenges with reading began in kindergarten and continued in first grade. By second grade, he was in an Individualized Education Program at BCIG (Battle Creek-Ida Grove) Elementary School in Ida Grove, Iowa. His parents, both avid readers, were concerned—they loved reading as both children and adults, and they wanted Chance to get the reading support he needed.
In second grade, Chance’s class began using Renaissance Accelerated Reader®, and before long he was reaching the monthly reading goals his teacher had set for him. For the first time, he was reading because he wanted to—not because he had to.
“I remember him coming home from school and being so excited to tell me that he had reached his reading goal,” says Maggie Buns, Chance’s mother. “One of my favorite things to ask Chance is, ‘What did you learn today that you didn’t know before?,’ and he would tell me all about the books he was reading and how he was setting goals for himself with the help of his teacher. It thrilled me to know that he was falling in love with reading—you could tell by listening to his voice.”
As Chance continued to use Accelerated Reader in his classes each year, he continued to improve. His excitement would show up in unexpected places. “It got to the point where he was reading everything—even the manual that was attached to the fire extinguisher at school,” says Maggie. “He’d hold up the line for lunch because he was reading it.”
Holding up lines, making friends
By fourth grade, Chance’s reading had caught the positive attention of his classmates. He was leading the class in reading, and as a result started to have conversations with other students about books. “Chance was learning to socialize better with his classmates, and reading helped with that,” says Maggie. “He had input in conversations. He had knowledge of a variety of books—both fiction and nonfiction—and as a result, he started to become a resource for his class. Kids would ask him, ‘Chance, what should I read next?’ and he’d give them a few suggestions.”
“It’s much easier to socialize when you can bring up reading,” Chance adds. “I really like recommending books to my friends.”
Setting a goal, breaking a record
As fifth grade began, Chance had an idea. He wanted to set a goal for himself that no other student at his school had accomplished: to earn 1,000 Accelerated Reader points by the end of the school year and break the school record. “It was a challenge—and I love challenges,” Chance says, laughing. (In Accelerated Reader, points are used as a measure of practice, and each book has a point value. Points are based on length and text complexity (ATOS level). Length is heavily weighted.)
Chance could often be seen reading before school, between classes, during lunch, and after school—he was rarely seen without a book in his hands. He loved how Accelerated Reader allowed for instantaneous feedback through comprehension quizzes, and he appreciated how he was always able to find books that were the right fit for his reading level. As he read more, he noticed that the books that might have been challenging a few months before seemed just right for him now.
At the end of the 2015-2016 school year, Chance was recognized for setting the record for the most Accelerated Reader points ever earned at BCIG Elementary School: 1,198—nearly 200 points over his original goal, and with a career point total of more than 2,000. “I felt accomplished and proud,” says Chance. “To receive the award in front of my whole school and hear my friends cheering me on was really cool.”
New year, new challenges
Maggie says that Chance’s success has created a confident, excited student eager to begin sixth grade at OABCIG (Odebolt, Arthur, Battle Creek, and Ida Grove) Middle School. “Without his fantastic teachers and Accelerated Reader, Chance’s story might be very different. To see him having struggled so much as a second-grader, and a few years later he’s an avid reader and a straight-A student—that’s the best outcome I could have ever hoped for,” she says.
The best part of Chance’s story, according to Maggie, is the opportunities reading has given him outside the classroom. “Watching him go to school happy and come home with a new book he couldn’t wait to read has been a wonderful thing,” she says. “But it’s also been the friendships. It started with classmates asking about books, and it’s turned into, ‘Hey, are you going to the pool today?’
“He’s discovered that reading is so much more than awards or points or an ‘A’ in a class.”