Guest Blog: Mary Willingham, Reading and Learning Specialist, on the AceReader Program

[Editor’s note: This is the first in an occasional series of guest blogs from a variety of AceReader users.]

After college, where I earned a BS in Psychology, I worked in corporate HR for 15 years. Shortly before I turned 40, though, I decided that I wanted to teach, and I returned to school to earn my teaching credentials in K-12 learning disabilities. One of my classes was reading methodologies, and it made me want to learn more. I enrolled in a local literacy tutor Wilson Reading certificate program. Following that program, I taught at the Hill Center and was further trained in the Orton Gillingham method. I’ve spent the last fifteen years working as a reading and learning specialist.

I first heard of AceReader when one of my colleagues at UNC-CH (University of Carolina at Chapel Hill) attended a National Literacy Conference and met a professor from the Air Force Academy who was using the program. She connected us with him, and he was kind enough to share all of his materials and information about the software. We incorporated a program similar to that used at the Air Force Academy at UNC-CH in 2011, and it instantly became popular with undergrads, grad students, faculty and staff.

Our purpose for introducing the program was to meet the needs of the students at Carolina. Some wanted to improve their reading skills, while others needed some developmental reading strategies. All of our students told us that they wanted to become more efficient readers.

In 2010, we were still using the SRA card system [Editor’s Note: SRA stands for Science Research Associates; it is a color-coded, multi-level instructional system that allows for individualized reading needs], and I knew that we needed an updated and online platform. It was also important that we find a program that included assessments. What we got from AceReader exceeded our expectations for the program.

Currently, I’m doing independent contract work for a non-profit organization, and I’m using the program with 250 5th, 6th and 7th-grade students, as well as 50 high school students. The 13 levels in AceReader, as well as the option to turn on/off the different presentation modes, allow us to customize the experience for each reading level and each student. The differing complexity levels are very helpful, especially since they can be adjusted by the students themselves, and the students find the content interesting and appreciate the variety. [Editor’s Note: AceReader currently has five full Test Sets for students to use – General, General Inference, Fun Facts, Famous People, and SAT-ACT Prep. We are in the process of expanding our Earth & Space Sciences and American & World History Test Sets.] I also find the new assessment pre/post-test feature an excellent gauge of progress, and the instructional videos are very helpful for teachers as well as students.

At Carolina, our class met twice per week for four weeks, and I saw students double and triple their reading speed while increasing their comprehension at rates of 20-30%. Currently, my middle and high school students are using the program a minimum of three times per week in 20-30 minute sessions. I’m looking forward to collecting and analyzing data from those enrolled in the program.

I remember the commercials that used to advertise “get hooked on phonics” – I’ve personally seen well over 500 students get hooked on AceReader.  I’ve seen nothing but positive results from the program, and I plan to continue using it with my non-profit work. It is my opinion that the software/online platform provides the best solution to solve the growing literacy crisis in this country. AceReader meets learners of all ages exactly where they’re at and brings them along in a way that increases reading skills – comprehension, fluency and reading rate. When all is said and done, I think the best part of using the program is getting students to think more intentionally about their reading skills and strategies, and I would recommend the program to others who want to their students to do the same.

Author: AceReader Blogger

The AceReader blogging team is made up of specialists in a number of different areas: literacy, general education, content development, and educational software. For questions about posts, please submit them in the form below. For suggestions about blog topics, please email them to

Leave a Reply