American Reading Company’s (ARC) Research Labs is a project-based reading, writing, and research program for students in grades K-12. Resources are available in print format and address the instructional shifts of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) (e.g., “Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction”). Instruction is organized in a workshop structure that provides opportunities for whole class, small group, and one-on-one instruction. Learning List recently reviewed resources for grades 1-5.
Research Labs presents instruction in four 9-week modules that address narrative, argumentative, and informational writing and genre study (e.g., short story, novel). Each writing module frames a “Unit of Study” in social studies or science (e.g., Jobs in My Community, Plants) that integrates reading, writing, and research skills. Through a close reading of a complex “Central Text” for the unit, the class begins to explore and engage with the topic. Using leveled texts provided in the “Unit Research Library,” students independently investigate and decide on a research topic and a set of research questions. Each module contains “Writing Cards” that guide students in the writing process (e.g., drafting, revising, editing) as well as graphic organizers and rubrics that help students organize their thinking.
Lessons include opportunities for formative assessment through one-on-one conferences between students and teachers. Each module ends with a final project that students publish and present to the class. Rubrics are provided to help teachers evaluate students’ writing and to support students in assessing their own work.
About American Reading Company*
The history of American Reading Company (ARC) began with one powerful idea. CEO and founder Jane Hileman, then working as a reading specialist, challenged a group of second graders reading on a kindergarten level to read 100 books. By giving them the choice to read books leveled to their abilities—books in which they were interested—her 100 Book Challenge enabled students to experience reading success and encouraged them to read more. Ms. Hileman and her colleagues used daily conferencing and assessment sessions to coach each student and to ensure that the shared curriculum met their needs. They were offered inexpensive prizes as incentives for reading a certain number of books. Parents were supported in establishing the home routines essential to sustained reading and long-term academic success. As a result, even the most reluctant of students got hooked on reading through Ms. Hileman’s 100 Book Challenge, and soon, all the second graders had dramatically improved their reading scores.
Word of the 100 Book Challenge spread, and Ms. Hileman was invited to bring the program into Philadelphia city schools, where her ideas for reading improvement were put to use in several of the district’s poorest and poorest-performing schools. When two of the schools were recognized for doubling the percentage of students reading on or above grade level, 100 Book Challenge was cited as one of the reasons behind the schools’ successes. With the support of the William Penn Foundation, 100 Book Challenge spread to more than 70 Philadelphia schools. In 1998, the Abell Foundation of Baltimore asked Ms. Hileman to provide her program at ten Baltimore city schools. To fulfill that order, Ms. Hileman decided to establish 100 Book Challenge as a business.
Over time, the company’s core program, 100 Book Challenge, was expanded to include Research Labs (thematic, integrated, project-based learning units in science and social studies) and Action 100 (a response to intervention accountability framework for whole-school transformation). To reflect its national customer-base and its growing list of products and programs, the company changed its name from 100 Book Challenge to American Reading Company in 2004.
American Reading Company’s rapid growth and success in the classroom has not gone unnoticed. As one of the fastest growing companies in the United States, ARC has attracted minority investments from Random House and Ironwood Investments. It was recently recognized as one of the Top 500 Diversity Owned Businesses in the U.S. and is the recipient of the 2006 Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award.