A Few Thoughts on Reading Logs

PassionateReadersTeacher 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. 

WitchesThis 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.

ReadingInTheWildBut 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. 

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: November 16: Streamlining #SocialMedia, Encouraging #Play + Keeping #Learning Personal

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #curiosity, #Diversity, #GrowingBookworms, #GrowthMindset, #HigherEd, #Homework, #homework, #JoyOfReading, #kidlit, #PersonalizedLearning, #play, #ReadingLogs, #ScreenTime, parenting, schools, and teaching.

Informational Tweet

FYI for anyone interested, I am trying to streamline my online life. I deactivated my Facebook page and my + Twitter accounts. I'll continue sharing things @JensBookPage and on my personal Facebook account.

Book Lists

BeaversBetter Together: Funny Pairings in 2018 Books for Kids —


The Importance Of | Study: black students who have 1-2 black teachers in elementary are more likely to enroll in

Why Bright Girls Struggle: When Ability Doesn't Lead to Confidence | | they pick up after being praised as "good students" vs. developing

Growing Bookworms

8thGradeSuperzeroExpert Tips for Keeping Busy Kids Connected to Books | | I especially liked quoted motto on kids' selection “Nothing without joy!”

7 Ways for to Communicate Caring About At-Home – w/out | lists, + more |

Seattle high-school teacher shares ‘the wonder of books’ with students on a different kind of field trip |

Higher Ed

Studious friends and roommates might lead to higher grades in -

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Evangelinecoverlarge1Introducing new website dedicated to Spooky books via

Six Reasons to Read from | , + (one I love) modeling to your kids |

Thoughts on the value of having Time to Think, and how difficult it can be to carve out from

Parenting + Play

IrresistibleThe sneaky science behind your child’s tech obsession w/ concrete tips for fighting back - |

The Mad Rush to is Killing Our Children’s Entrepreneurial Spirit | They spend so much time on extracurriculars + studying that they don't have time to by https://t.co/QrKkw2j85H

Reasons Your Kids Need to Move More and How to Fit It In Your Day – If you want your kids to be smart, teach them to jump rope, depends on movement

Schools and Libraries

FutureDriven7 Unexpected Benefits of by + more

Homework: Too Much Too Early? | If you ask me any in K is too much

Brooklyn students hold walkout in protest of Facebook-designed online program, saying it forces them to stare at computers for hours and “teach ourselves.” via

Why Does Sometimes Feel Impersonal? Platforms can detach students from the personal relationships w/ + peers that are critical to

InnovatorsMindset4 Skills and Traits Great Teach That Will Always be Essential – | Hard work, + more

6 Questions that Promote Agency –

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: November 9: Picky #Readers, #Thanksgiving #MadLibs + Better School Attendance

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this relatively light week include #BookLists, #Bullying, #CivilDiscourse, #GrowingBookworms, #JoyOfLearning, #PictureBooks, #Play, #reading, #ReadingAloud, #ReadingLogs, class size, literacy, parenting, schools, and teaching.

Book Lists + Awards

DragonsLoveTacos210 children's books I really, really love reading to my kids | via |

Best Books for 7 Year Olds According to a 7 Year Old | from | + tips for focusing on

Cybils Season, or how serving kids can benefit from the selections, which blend "high literary merit and kid appeal" from

Growing Bookworms

GeorgesMedicineThe | Why to your class should happen in every , w/ tips for doing it well) from

What to do with picky . Tips for from , ranging from to to | |

Great read for + : Let’s Talk About Again by "My biggest issue with reading logs comes from the inherent lack of trust that they communicate" |

In Which the 8 Year-Old Questions My Ethics | responds to 's recent post. It's all about nurturing  https://t.co/7eaqHxI6vt

and the by Dawn Finch | What works best as ?


Tidbits in this week's Fusenews range from to to the "Golden Ratio of Sexism in Children's Literature"

Parenting, Play + #JoyOfLearning

ThanksgivingMadLibs Activity Ideas that Keep Kids (and Grown-ups) Off Screens from |

7 Strategies to Keep The Boring Out and Get Kids Interested in | written for but could apply to any nurturing

What the Times got wrong about kids and phones - via

Schools and Libraries

On and the of | "We need to weigh evidence consistently—treating as the same those studies that challenge our deepest beliefs as well as those that are wind beneath our wings"

Despite popularity w/ + , review of research finds small benefits to small classes -

Methods for Nudging and Families to Better - |

BlackthornKey4A Rant from on Series Books + the shelf space that long series can take up

7 ways to teach to by Tiffany Mitchell Patterson via |

By Doing: Using the Arts to Enhance and Stop | Guest post by

Another Study Finds What Every Knows – Having Students Draw Pictures Helps Them Learn |  https://t.co/KSpuYOqqyQ

How Can Support Equity and Excellence - rejecting models that effectively keep below grade level kids from moving forward | + Rebecca Kockler  https://t.co/yFoi6hPU4h

7 Poor Thinking Habits We Must Fix to Think More Critically by + more | via

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

Santa Bruce: Ryan T. Higgins

Book: Santa Bruce
Author: Ryan T. Higgins
Pages: 48
Age Range: 4-8

SantaBruceSanta Bruce is the fourth installment of the Ryan T. Higgins series that started with Mother Bruce (my review). There's also a new board book about Bruce, briefly discussed below. Bruce, I must say, is one of my favorite picture book characters. He is a consistently grumpy bear who is first (in Mother Bruce) roped into becoming the parent of four geese and later (in Hotel Bruce) expands his household to add three ridiculously determined mice. 

In Santa Bruce, Bruce is forced to stay awake through the holidays, because his family is excited to celebrate. Because he is cold, he puts on some (red) long underwear and a warm hat. This leads to (you can guess) "A case of mistaken identity." Young animals start showing up on the doorstep, wanting to tell Santa Bruce about their Christmas wishes. Left to himself, Bruce would send these pests away ("I don't want all their dirty little feet in my ..."). The mice, naturally, feel otherwise. Despite his determined resistance, Bruce finds himself out with a sleigh delivering gifts on Christmas Eve. 

The beauty of this book is that Bruce never brightens his expression. He grumbles and complains. He grits his teeth. He is put upon. And yet, he does what is asked of him, even when it is difficult. Picture a bear climbing a too-small tree to drop a package into a knothole, or a bear dressed like Santa losing his balance as he steps on a train set, and you get the idea. The primary text is always deadpan about Bruce's responses. Like this:

"Bruce decided to ignore the problem until it went away.

It did not.

It got worse."


"And with that, the parents left, shouting out with glee.

Bruce did not like glee."

This is augmented by dialog bubbles that add more detail, and give some of the supporting characters personality. These also give the adult reader more scope to add expression in reading aloud. This is a fabulous book for a parent and child to read together (though my daughter was too eager to wait for me, and read it on her own). 

The other thing that makes Santa Bruce fun (and fun for adult readers, too, not just for kids) is the sly humor that Higgins throws in. My favorite scene in Santa Bruce shows  Mama Bunny and Papa Bunny sitting by the wood-stove in their cozy den. Four baby bunnies are nestled in bed. The last room of the den contains "Grown-up Bunny who still lives with his parents" and is typing away on a computer, wearing headphones. This made me laugh out loud. The scenes with young animals sitting on Bruce's lap are also priceless, especially the porcupine who wants "ninety-nine red balloons." It's just a top-notch combination of text and illustration, centered around a strong, sympathetic main character. 

It is possible that my love for Bruce is enhanced by the fact that I am sometimes grumpy (especially when someone is keeping me from getting my sleep). Nevertheless, I predict that Santa Bruce is going to be one of my family's favorite reads over the coming Christmas holiday. I think that any family in which Bruce is already a favorite (and where Christmas is celebrated) will want to add Santa Bruce to family holiday reading. Libraries will certainly want to add this one to their shelves. 

1GrumpyBruceOh, and if you are looking to introduce a younger child to Bruce, I also recommend the new board book: 1 Grumpy Bruce: A Counting Book. Each page spread features a count of something, from "2 uninvited skunks" (scent wafting from their tails) to "9 porcupines wanting hugs" to "10 woodchucks chucking wood".  Of course we end with "still 1 grumpy bear." The board book features simpler illustrations, but totally captures Bruce's grumpiness and Higgin's keen sense of absurdity. It is well worth a look! 

You don't necessarily need to have read Hotel Bruce and Bruce's Big Move (which I actually haven't read) to appreciate Santa Bruce, but I would recommend reading the first book, Mother Bruce, for context. I highly recommend both Santa Bruce and 1 Grumpy Bruce for families and libraries everywhere. 

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Literacy Milestone: An Appreciation for Biographies

LiteracyMilestoneAI've mentioned previously that my daughter's third grade teacher has been encouraging the students to read nonfiction (driven by common core, I suppose). My graphic novel-obsessed daughter had never previously displayed much interested in nonfiction. But she adores and wants to please her teacher, so she started picking up these little Who Is / Who Was biographies from the school library. The other day she remarked: "I never knew biographies could be so interesting." And so she is hooked (not to rival graphic novels, but she's reading multiple biographies each week). 

WhoWasAnneFrankShe mostly chooses biographies of women. She's read about Jane Goodall, Anne Frank, Marie Curie, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and J. K. Rowling, as well as Walt Disney and Dr. Seuss and a few others that I am probably forgetting. She periodically chimes in with facts about one or another of these figures. She was particularly fascinated by Anne Frank, and has been talking about her quite a bit. 

As for me, I'm happy to know that there are lots of books remaining in the Who Was/Who Is series, and that quite a few of those are about women. We do also have some nonfiction in graphic novel format, and have been reading a couple of fact-filled  Magic School Bus books each week. But it is biographies that are capturing her attention at this step along her pathway to literacy. It's fun seeing her develop as a learner and a reader. 

Did your kids have a biography phase? 

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook