TCU professor Jan Lacina's recent oped about Accelerated Reader (AR) compels me to address a small piece of the complexity faced by America's teachers and principals as they teach children to read in a world full of video games, iPads and cellphones, and in a context of high-stakes testing accountability. (See: "Teaching kids the 'game' of school testing," Wednesday)Lacina enumerates several problems associated with an incomplete use or misuse of AR, including that the program does not encourage book-related conversations between children and with their teachers, and it relies on a testing and incentive program that might emphasize superficial facts and minimize deeper comprehension of the messages of books.In diverse, urban cities such as Fort Worth, about 60 percent of our incoming students do not have the basic foundation necessary to begin reading instruction immediately. Beginning to read in most Fort Worth schools means learning such basics as the letters of the alphabet, how to hold a book and why there are pictures on a page.Thanks to our dedicated teachers and principals, by fifth grade more than 80 percent of our students meet state reading expectations. By 11th grade, the number rises to 91 percent.Is this high enough? Of course not. There is always more work to do. That work is being done -- with joy and pride.A branch of the educational field develops programs and software to assist educators in their work. Accelerated Reader is one such program, created to meet a need to encourage and motivate children to read for both understanding and pleasure.But as any teacher knows, there is no silver bullet that will magically teach a child to read well and love doing it. Progress springs only from the tireless directed modeling and teaching of parents and teachers as they work to build skills for using letter-sound relationships to tackle new words, reading with fluency, and, most importantly, reading with deep comprehension.The Fort Worth school district recognizes the complexity of teaching students to read and addresses this challenge through a balanced approach to reading instruction. This includes explicit instruction in phonics -- the relationship between letters of written language and sounds of spoken language -- for learning to read and comprehend words, phrases and sentences in increasingly more-complex text.An important piece of this balanced approach is teaching children to choose real-world books that are challenging but not overwhelming.Through a challenging and thoughtful curriculum and high-quality resources that allow for learning at different paces and support second-language learners, Fort Worth teachers guide tens of thousands of students every day.Schools also use multiple supplemental resources, including Accelerated Reader, to extend and enrich children's reading experiences. While I am not endorsing Accelerated Reader, it is designed to motivate children to read, and when used correctly does what it is intended to do.Anyone, starting with the AR designers, will tell you it is not and never should be "the reading curriculum."Nobody wants a "program" to assign a book to a child, nor do they want a child to be satisfied with memorizing superficial facts without delving into the true message of a story or book.The reading experiences of children in Fort Worth schools are infinitely more than Accelerated Reader. Anyone with concerns about their local reading program is encouraged to talk to their teachers, principals or the school district's literacy staff.Reading appears to come naturally for some people. But for many among us, it is practically rocket science. Thank goodness we have dedicated teachers to do the work that no machine could ever do.Michael Sorum is the Fort Worth school district's deputy superintendent for leadership, learning and student support.