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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Reading logs, reading blahs

August 29, 2007

Many of us are back to school by now. And for most of us, that means daily reading logs, where a parent signs a log each night confirming that her child has read at home that day. For us, we're on day five, and we're already a little bored.

In the spirit of starting the year off on the right foot, here are a few ideas (hopes? hints?) for teachers and parents that may make reading logs more useful, interesting, and exciting.

I'd love to hear from teachers and parents about reading logs — what has worked for you, and what hasn't?
[list]

[*]Make sure kids have access to good books. School, classroom, and public libraries are all good resources. When possible, kids should be able to check out and return books more frequently than once a week.

[*]Evaluate your reading log. Does the structure of it place unnecessary value on pages read? Minutes read? Ask yourself what you value about reading and whether it's reflected on your form.

[*]Use reading logs as a way extend exposure to an author or illustrator being studied at school. Consider providing a list of books by the same author or illustrator.

[*]Make sure parents know and use some variation of the five finger or the Goldilocks rule for difficulty. The reading done at home should be at a child's independent level (95-100% accuracy).

[*]Is there an interesting science or social studies unit going on in the classroom? Help kids find good books on related themes (example here) to keep the school conversation happening at home too.

[*]Honor the work the kids are doing by reading at home. Engage them in a conversation about what they've been reading, what they've liked and what they didn't.[/list]

Comments

My 3rd grade daughter just brought home a reading log contract that included what I consider to be a pretty severe punishment if she fails to return the reading log on Monday mornings. Any child that fails to return the form on Monday, even if they did the work but forgot the form, will be held inside for recess and get an automatic 1 hour detention to be served that Monday! I find this excessive and frankly outrageous! I'm glad I found your blog and will forward a link to the principal of the school with a note to read the comments. I enjoyed reading everyone's experiences and honestly can say my daughter reads less now than she was before the whole 'log' came into to play! I miss AR! My oldest did AR in FL...wish they had that in Maine!

I have taken the time to read all past posts in this blog and certainly understand the frustrations voiced by many of you. As a first grade teacher, working with many students who still need the added practice of reading at home, our team felt that reading logs would be helpful. We, however, chose to present them with a reading notebook with a lot of choice built in. They were not so much reading logs as reading response tools. While we asked the children to read for 15 minutes every night, they only had to respond two or three of the evenings they read. We gave the children and parents lists of possible books appropriate for the student's reading level but also gave them the opportunity to check out books in which they showed an interest from our class library. There was also a list pasted in the front of their notebook of many choices for how the student might respond to their reading. At the beginning of the year it could simply be a labeled picture of a favorite character or scene in their story. As the year progressed the student might choose to write a sentence or two about their story or they might search for rhyming words or words from their book that fit their word study features for the week. All of these choices were acceptable as well as many others listed. The children also had the right to suggest other ways of responding to their reading. As all of the work was in the children's own hand, parents did not need to be responsible for signing off and most all of the children enjoyed completing their reading notebook. I had only two students who put up a fight with their parents about completion of the reading responses and they also were children who fought with their parents about any homework they might receive so I was not surprised. The one thing that I think made our reading response notebook more successful is that each week I took them home and took the time to write my own comments and questions on each page for the children to respond to. It took time on my part but it paid off because the students looked forward to these and I had to check back regularly to respond to their responses! On the two weeks in the year where I gave them a simple sticker or star instead they made it well known that they were not happy and expected me to do my part so the notebooks would continue to be fun! I also encouraged the students to share their reading responses with their peers, to give recommendations for great books and to discuss stories when they found others reading the same texts. I think that reading logs/responses can be motivating if you offer students choice and limit the number of days that it is required.

Patti, I like your idea. I'd love to see your response journal. Great idea for first grade!

As a teacher, the most disturbing trend that I see in these posts is the one of "civil disobedience" as an earlier blogger called them. To often in this day and age, we see students with a total lack of respect for anything school related and apparently it comes from the parent attitude that is either percieved or communicated at home. Research-based evidence highly supports the need for being a fluent reader. It is also neccesary to comprehend what is being read. The only way to gain fluency and comprehension skills: you guessed it, reading, reading , reading!In our 2nd grade classrooms, we do have a reading log and we do ask that the students read for an hour a week but they may read whatever they choose, not books that we have assigned - although if they choose to use their reading books they may. The only students who seem to have any issue with the reading logs are the same ones who have issues with doing any work outside of school because it interferes with their extracurricular activities. So maybe the discussion should really be geared to looking at the American school day. We are the only school system that includes sports and shortens the day to do so. Now, for a crazy, insane idea! Let's take sports out of the equation, lengthen the school day so the need for homework no longer exists and parents can then do athletics all on their own as the rest of the modern world does! Think of how much money that would put back into the strained budgets of the school systems all over the country? How wonderful would it be to make education a true priority in our country instead of athletics!

As a parent, I have not seen a reading log that I like. First, every day is different in terms of what we have time for. Sometimes, it is all we can do to get the kids to bed on time (they don't finish their homework, they may not stay up.) Also, for the ones that are "read X number books in a month" and extra points for going over--I think it discourages kids from pushing the limits of their abilities. I'm trying to get my daughter to read longer chapter books that are on the edge of her capabilities (she is capable, but it challenges her) But, because the person who reads the most books gets the prize, she wants to read the short, easy books. I like the idea of everyone picking a book and reading it and sharing what they learned with their classmates. I do not force reading, at all. However, my husband and I are both voracious readers and the kids do pick up on that. Plus, we have a pretty good home library and make regular forays to the bookstore and library. Plus, there is always something to download to the Kindle from Project Gutenberg.

As a teacher currently trying to re-create her "reading-logs" due to some of the issues mentioned above, I thank each of you for your comments, questions, suggestions, and concerns. The logs I assigned the last few months were failing due to a variety of issues we've all discussed here. I'm thinking of trying a more student-centered approach this term. I teach 6th grade, and I'm planning on each student working with me to create their own "reading goal" and "log" to accompany it. This will allow for the student who HATES recording the times to just keep track of books, or the student who can't read every day due to sports, to focus on so many pages per week. I'm hoping it will let parents bring their concerns forward as students will be asked to discuss their goal with their parents before my final approval. I want students to be empowered. Perhaps I'm optimistic, but I think it's worth a try. Maybe I'll comment back in a few months and let you all know how it goes!Good luck in each of your endeavors to help our students and children develop a love of reading.

We're having the same exact problem at our house, Kim. Molly all but refuses to read for her "homework" but the minute we put the form away she's happy to curl up with a good book. Not good!

I absolutely love reading the various perspectives on this topic; from parents of high-achieving kids, from parents of struggling readers, from teachers of all grades...it's GREAT! I always laugh when I get chastised for our decision to not do the reading log - I'm such a rule follower that it really was outside my nature to do such a thing, but seriously, there was no accountability for the log. The teacher never mentioned our not doing it, and at a class party mid-year I learned that none of the other moms were having their kids do it either! For me, it was the nature of the reading log: (1) no one checked it or commented on it, (2) it required responding every day after reading...would YOU like to have to write a paragraph after every chapter you read? (3) uninspired generic prompts that often didn't work with what Molly had read. Keep your ideas coming, maybe together we can design the perfect reading log!

I do not like reading logs for my avid reader because she does not need them. I have yet to determine whether my less than avid reader will make better use of one this year - I do see the benefit one using one for her because it forces her to read, track and be responsible to her teacher without my having to force her to read myself. My issue with requiring one for students who don't really need one is that it is 'busy work.' And to the teacher who was aghast at a parent going against a teacher's wishes, I do teach my children the difference between work worth doing/learning and busy work. This will make them smarter, more efficient workers as they grow up and become professionals. While they may have to do what their teachers tell them and respect authority, they don't have to like it and should recognize a poor assignment when they see one.

This is something I need to research more for myself, but I notice when the stuff comes home from school about the importance of reading, the language is a bit crafty... in other words, it sounds like they're taking something that is actually a *correlation* and wanting to turn it into *causation* -- that reading more (and therefore reading logs which require kids to read more), increases kids test scores, etc. "Kids who read more do better." But is that because the kids who naturally love to read more are the kids for whom reading naturally comes easier (and probably other things come easier as well)? Is there any evidence that making kids read who have difficulty reading or don't like to read increases *their* test scores or turns them into kids who love reading?

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"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift." — Kate DiCamillo