Rethinking Reading Logs


This year I taught all four classes of second grade English at my school. I saw each group of students for a half day of reading and a half day of writing every week. One of the things that really struck me was the EXTREME difficulty of implementing a (consistent) system of reading accountability for my students... especially for at-home reading. I've always used reading logs in previous years (sometimes as simple logs, other times as reading response sheets), but this year had me pulling out my hair. 

Initial Goal(s) for Reading Logs
My inability to discuss home reading with students' until the following week made reading logs essential to help keep track of the kinds of books they were reading and how long they were reading each night. I wanted students to understand that reading volume is so crucial to becoming better readers, while also helping them see patterns in their reading habits (genres they tend to read, which nights they're able to read for longer periods of time, etc.). I also wanted the reading log to serve as a reminder for one of the most important things they could do to become better students: Read at home as often as possible!

The Problem with Reading Logs
The main problem with reading logs stemmed from the infrequency of my classes. Seeing students only once each week for Reading made follow-up and feedback very difficult. Seven days would pass between one lesson and the next. Seven days is a LOT of time to a seven-year-old! Building and maintaining a consistent routine took about three months for some students, and other students never latched onto the reading log as a helpful tool. And although I communicated with parents, I received a lot of, "Yes, we're reading at home, but we just don't have time to fill out the reading log." Even though I was asking students to write only the title of the book and pages or minutes read, I kept getting excuse after excuse about how they didn't have time to fill out the log. "But I'm reading!" so many of them would say to me. They didn't see the reading log as helpful or necessary, and it didn't add to their love of reading in any way.

My Revised Plan and Goal
Needless to say, reading logs were not working for my kiddos. I was spending too much time checking them and practically begging students to fill them out, while wasting valuable time that could've been spent teaching, reading, or doing anything else to nurture a classroom full of readers.

Near the end of the year, instead of checking reading logs, we began to do Book Talks each week. The whole point of the reading log had been to encourage reading and help students develop some awareness about what they were reading and enjoying. Since that hadn't worked for most students, I thought Book Talks during our morning meeting might be an alternative. I chose three students at the beginning of the week to share their thoughts about their reading during our following class together. I posted a few ideas for things they might talk about, and we discussed as a class the importance of hearing from each other for book recommendations and inspiration. After all, it's one of the things I value as a grownup reader! Even though I started this near the end of the year, students became hooked. They loved Book Talks and even my reluctant readers begged to have a chance at one. 

Instead of reading logs next year, I think I'll start with Book Talks instead. Whether you see students every day or even just once per week, I think it's an important consideration. What's the ultimate goal of reading logs? Are you achieving that goal?

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