Teacher and mother (and author of Passionate Readers) Pernille Ripp had a recent post (not her first on the subject) about reading logs. She wrote:
"As a parent, I have seen the damage firsthand. When presented with a reading log one year, Thea quickly informed me that ALL she had to read was the 20 minutes that it said, after that, she was done. It didn’t matter how much I told her that it was not just 20 minutes that she needed to read because the piece of paper told her so. And the paper trumped my insistence to simply read."
This incident matched one that I had with my own daughter at the beginning of the school year last year. My daughter was supposed to read for 20 minutes each weeknight, and I was supposed to check a box indicating that she had done so. The very first night that I asked her to read for 20 minutes, she stopped on the dot at the 20 minute mark and said: "Done!". My heart sank, because this was a child who would keep reading until you dragged her off to do something else. But once it was an assignment to read for 20 minutes, she defaulted to read for ONLY 20 minutes. She was reading to check something off a task list, instead of reading for the joy of it.
I was very lucky. I talked with her (absolutely wonderful) teacher about what had happened, and we agreed that I would quietly NOT enforce the official 20 minutes of reading time, but would instead just keep an eye out to make sure that she was reading more or less every day. This I accomplished, as previously discussed, by keeping books in the car and at the breakfast table. We finished second grade with her love of reading intact and without me having to lie on a reading checkbox every day.
This year, happily, there is no reading log. My daughter does have assigned reading most weekdays, a couple of chapters of a book that she is reading with a group of other kids. She has to do the reading so that she can participate in discussion the next day. But the first book was Roald Dahl's The Witches, which she enjoyed (but was at a slightly higher level than I think she would have read on her own). So this hasn't been a problem. And we don't do any logging for school of her other reading (beyond her taking AR tests on some of the books, which will be a topic for a different post). I still log the books that she reads myself, when I know about them, so that we'll have our own record, but that's not about tracking time spent.
Anyway, back to Pernille's reading log post. After admitting that she lies on reading logs as a parent, and talking about how reading logs are one of the things that her students tell her makes them dislike reading, Pernille discusses how she knows that her students are reading. She also shares some tips for teachers who decide that they do need to use reading logs, to make them less damaging. This includes seeking input from both parents and students. She concludes:
"In the end, in our pursuit to establish classrooms filled with passionate readers, we must make sure that the things we do, even little parts of our day like reading logs, do not do more harm than good."
This post is well worth a read, by parents (it may assuage some guilt over how you handle reading logs) and especially by teachers. Pernille's post got Mary Wade, who blogs at HonorsGradU, also thinking about reading logs. Mary wrote first about the ethics of just signing off on reading logs (which she does, and which her 8 year old questioned). She says:
"I myself used to think that reading logs were a great way to remind kids to read at home. Now I know that they can create obstacles that stand in the way of reading itself."
She keeps her focus on not getting in the way of her daughter's love of reading. We are definitely kindred spirits on this. Mary wrote a few days later about ways that teachers can communicate that they care about at home reading without using reading logs. She suggests keeping it simple, but working to get the message across that reading is important, through efforts like ClassroomBookADay. I think these are also great posts for parents and teachers to read.
I can't imagine that there are many teachers out there who WANT to dampen kids' love of reading. Teachers use reading logs with the best of intentions - they are asking parents to encourage kids to spend time reading while at home. For reading-focused parents like Pernille, Mary, and myself, this is unnecessary and can end up being detrimental.
But it's not enough to just say: "Stop doing that." Because you DO still need ways to encourage and help the parents who are not as reading-focused. This is a really tricky balance. That's why I'm so grateful for teachers like Mary and Pernille and Donalyn Miller, who take the time to share their ideas on this subject with other teachers. And I'm grateful for my daughter's second grade teacher, who understood and worked with me last year, and for her third grade teacher, whose enthusiasm for reading and writing spills over to my daughter every day.
I'll be taking a break from blogging next week and will be back on November 26th. Wishing you all a safe, happy, and book-filled Thanksgiving week.