Reading Logs: A Parent's Perspective









Hi Literacy Land readers!  It is Lauren from Teacher Mom of Three.  Today I am going to try and take off my teacher hat and talk about reading logs from a parent point of view.   This post is an opinion post to generate thinking and discussion. 

The reading logs that I am discussing are the ones sent home to document a child's reading at home.  They usually are in chart or calendar form and require the parent or child to record the book title, pages read, and/or minutes read, as well as requiring a parent signature. Sometimes they are counted toward a reading grade or homework grade.

Now, a little preface to my post so you know from where I am come.  I have been a teacher for twenty-six years and a mom for twenty-two years.  Throughout my teaching career, I have utilized a reader's log in various forms over all grade levels as a classroom teacher and as a reading specialist.  As well, my oldest son is now twenty-two, and he was required to complete a reader's log throughout most of his school career.

There is no disputing that students of all ages need to read at home to become better readers.  You can call it reading practice, independent, or recreational reading.  We all know that to be a better reader, kids need to read.  A lot.  And they need to read both at school and at home.

Ok, now that I have put my parent hat back on, I will say that from my family's perspective, the reading log does not promote authentic reading, nor does it create life-long readers. But let me get to the why.






Why Reading Logs Should Not be Emphasized
  •  First, many times the completion of reading logs is tied to a reward, whether it is a grade or a prize.  Sometimes students are rewarded for the total number of minutes read.  In this case, the incentive is extrinsic, not intrinsic.  Intrinsic motivation creates lifelong reading,  Extrinsic motivation is short-term and the motivation to read becomes not about reading for enjoyment, but rather to earn an ice cream party or a good grade.
  • The log is usually a form of accountability to document whether students are reading at home for the required daily or weekly minutes.  I understand that teachers need some sort of accountability.  I also understand that not all students will complete the reading or have a log completed. Sometimes even teacher-moms forget.  At least this one does.  We get so caught up in the reading, that many days pass and no one can remember how many minutes Noah read last Tuesday.  All that Noah knows is that he finished his book and he can't wait to read the next one in the series.

        Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer, believes that students will read if you give them great books. She doesn't require her students to keep a log for at-home reading. Teachers must help students to find books that they can get totally engrossed in.  Books that the students want to take home.  Books that are of interest to the students and books that the student has chosen herself.  There's two points here that I want to make. 
  •  First, when students must document the minutes read or pages read, this can and does interfere with reading.  It sets up an artificial reading experience. not an authentic one.  Students and parents have to remember to set the timer, reading magically stops when the timer goes off, and someone has to document the minutes.  The reading experience can become tedious and frustrating.


  • Second, many researchers, including Miller and Kelly Gallagher, author of Readicide, emphasize that teachers must, must allow time for reading in the classroom throughout the day.  Both understand that for many students they may not have a support system at home to encourage reading or a parent available to sign the log.  When I taught middle school, many of the students came from single family homes with the parent working night shift.  The students had to remember to make arrangements for parents to sign the log before the due date. Seems like they should be responsible, but these same students were the ones caring for younger siblings and in charge of making dinner and other chores.  Sadly, reading was not a priority in the home.  Staying safe in high-crime neighborhoods and caring for younger siblings was the priority.  Reading logs aren't going to change that.

  • The goal of education is to create life-long learners and readers.  The log isn't going to do that either.  For my sons, they read because they find it interesting and enjoyable.  The reader's log gets in the way.  We end up estimating exactly how many minutes they read because I will not have them or me running to the timer.  I do not want to communicate to them that reading stops when the timer goes off or when you have read 10 pages.  It's unnatural in this setting.  Real readers don't set the timer.  Real readers read in bits and chunks throughout the day. I don't document every time my boys read.  I can't.
  • And the reason I can't is because very early in the school year, they got the impression that reading is about completing the log and racking up the minutes.  "I want to go the ice cream party".  "I want the special tickets".  No, I had to gently remind them.  This is not what reading is all about.  I want my discussions with my kids to be about the book, not how many minutes or pages they read.  We read for enjoyment and to learn not for recording minutes.


So in my house, the boys logs are completed each month, but I don't emphasize them.  My boys read much more than the required 15 minutes a night.  They read at breakfast, when they are bored, in their beds at night, in the car, and when their Lego magazines arrive in the mail.  The reader's log did not create these "wild" readers.  No, not at all.


Stay tuned for a second part to this topic where I will discuss my ideas for alternatives.


What are your thoughts as a parent and/or as a teacher?





14 comments

  1. I agree with you. For years, our 2nd grade team had students do reading logs and those that completed them with a parent signature got a once a month extra recess for 30 minutes with the entire grade. After teaching for a while, one parent whose child was an excellent reader and read all the time (mom is an educator also) forgot and her child stayed in for recess. She sat down and talked to me and made me realize exactly what you said. This year, I was finally able to abandon it because our new principal is not a fan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mrs. Carlson- Thanks for stopping by! I know exactly what you are saying! Even as a teacher, it didn't really become an issue until I taught students in a low income school and then again at an affluent school where some of my readers had parents that just forgot to complete the log. So glad that you had admin, that was supportive! :-) Lauren

      Delete
  2. I tried them this year in 5th grade and have hated them. The kids won't fill them out - especially the kids that I know already read. I gave an alternative that they could just pass the RC points, but that didn't work anyway. In the past, I assigned focused book report projects one every few weeks, helping students pick books on their level. For me that was much more effective. My son has a vision problem that we just discovered after 3rd grade. Reading logs were a nightmare, because he wouldn't read. It was a 4 hour battle most evenings. Now I know why - he could not read more than about 4 words until his eyes jumped around the page. Those reading logs were really just a battleground. He is in 4th now, and reads - but no way does he do 20 minutes. It would literally consume my evening to get him to sit down and read 5 minutes four separate times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Amy! My middle son (grade 3) had one book project a month through the month of March. He was so motivated to read because he got to pick the book. These were long chapter books and he did read, but sometimes we both forgot the log. I used to set the timer, but did not like the message it was to them. I agree with you about not pushing the 20 min. a day with your son. That would just set the tone for an unpleasant experience. I sometimes do a read-aloud at the dinner table or before bedtime and count that as reading on nights when my boys are tired and grouchy, :-) Lauren

      Delete
  3. I love this post. Thank you so much. I have been personally struggling with this. Having a student now and putting that parent hat on has been eye opening. My daughter reads constantly and is not interested in a log. And I can't keep up with her reading. I feel like a bad parent but know that she is a great reader. Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank, Em! Voracious readers ain't got time for the logs! It's on to the next book for them! :-) Lauren

      Delete
  4. I have to agree with you... Reading logs do not create great readers, but hinder them. Unfortunately, my team loves them! One of the many things I'm going to change for next year ☺️

    ReplyDelete
  5. I couldn't agree more! Reading logs are a great tool to hold students accountable for their reading but takes all the enjoyment out of it. My school uses them religiously... and I've been trying to break away from them. I started using an online reading log program to make it more engaging for the students and take some of the burden off the teachers (I hate correcting reading logs and tracking parents down to sign them). I want to make my classroom more like an Oprah book club so students can enjoy what they read and discuss it with their peers. This online reading log has a blog feature that lets students talk about their books. Check out my blog post about it if you're interested: Paperless Reading Logs
    Thanks for posting! I'm going to share this with my colleagues!
    -Stacie
    Smocus Smocus

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Stacie! I love your Oprah book club analogy, and it sounds a lot like philosophy of Donalyn Miller and Nancie Atwell. Our local library has an online reader's log for their summer reading program. We complete the log together after my boys read a book. Since they are both reading chapter books, they don't have to complete the log everyday. I want to read your blog post, but the link took me to an empty page. :-) Lauren

      Delete
    2. Sorry Lauren! Just when you finally get this tech stuff sorted out it all changes again!! I think i got it right this time... Paperless Reading Logs
      Hope it works this time!
      -Stacie
      If not, stop by my blog www.smocussmocus.blogspot.com, you can find it under tech tips!

      Delete
    3. No worries! Thank you for the link! I just read your blog post and now I've got to check this website out. I'm thinking I may have boys use this over the summer and see what they think. Nothing like using your kids as guinea pigs! :-) Lauren

      Delete
  6. I agree as well. I think the kids who will read at home will read at home regardless and reading logs don't necessary make the kids who don't read. I've had many parents (even staff parents I work with) say they just sign it each night-not because they have read anything, but because they don't want to not sign it. This year I started having the kids be accountable by blogging about books they are reading from home. It's not required, however they can share what they liked (just like we do when we read) rather than timing them so many minutes or so many pages. It really seems to get them excited to read and comment on each other's posts.

    Not Just Child's Play

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Miss Trayers! I love your idea of having the students blog, which is a real, authentic activity that real readers do! And I agree that the logs don't make readers; if anything they are just one more obstacle for a struggling reader to have to jump through. :-) Lauren

      Delete
  7. Great post! I do agree that the reading log is not authentic but often it seems to be the only way to get certain kids reading. (Or get parents on board). I've taught for 25 years and have kids 19, 16 so we did lots of those logs. One didn't like it, one loved it. I wrote a post a while back about putting the "home" back in home reading. Home reading began to be a huge undertaking for the teacher (book sign outs, parents saying the books were too hard or too easy etc). Now we do the reading calendar but students find their own books by visiting the local library etc promoting it more as a home thing. They also do home reading presentations each month on their favorite book. This is to promote oral language. At first the kids are nervous and then the next month they LOVE them. I've had kids dress up as characters and create all kinds of cool things that the other students loved seeing. It has increased student interest in reading and given kids new book ideas. Parents like it and so do the students. Last year I had a student thank me for doing the home reading presentations because it "made her not shy". I am looking forward to your next post!
    :) Shelley

    ReplyDelete

Back to Top