Reading, reflection, Student-centered

How I Know My Students Are Reading at Home

image from etsy

I remember the reading logs well, my brothers hastily whipping them out Sunday night asking my mom to sign off that they had read x number of minutes.  My mother never checked, she did not want to be the reading police, after all, she knew my brothers read.  She didn’t care how many minutes or which book, all that mattered was that at some point their eyes met something to read. A great post by Angela Watson got me thinking, how do I know my students are reading if I don’t check their reading log?  How do I know that at some point their eyes meet a text?  There are many ways actually.

  • I watch their reaction.  Kids who read want independent reading time.  Kids who are in a great part of a book want time to find out what will happen next.  Kids who slowly get their reading bin, who distract others on the way; those are the kids I need to check in with and help.
  • I keep an eye on their book bin.  A whole book shelf in my room is the proof that my students read.  Periodically I go look through their bins, noting which books a kid has and whether those book have changed.  If they haven’t, I check in with that child.
  • We recommend.  Another favorite in our room is the speed book dating.  We quickly rattle off a book we love and why it should be read while the listener has their “I can’t wait to read ” list in their hand.
  • We show off our reading.  I have my reading door outside of the room so that my students always know what I am reading and my students can recommend books on a bulletin board.  Our reading is visible.
  • We discuss.  Reading should not be a solitary endeavor so we make time to discuss our books and why they are the best or the worst book ever.
  • We reflect.  I often ask students to tie in today’s teaching point with whatever they are reading right now.  Whether it is in our thoughtful logs or on a post-it, students take a moment to think and apply and once again lets me see what they are reading.
  • We do monthly reading reflections.  This year I really wanted to have a open dialogue with the students in regard to their reading life and although I do constant one on one or small group instruction, I wanted something more formal that I could file away and look at when needed.  My students know they are not judged on what they write but rather that I use it as a way to start a conversation with them.  I always appreciate their honesty and my actions show that.
  • We have great books.  If you want kids to read, have great books.  I do not know how much money I spend a year on books, I know it is a lot, but every time I am able to booktalk a book and see the reaction in my kids, it is worth it.  Couple that with an incredbile librarian and my students are pretty lucky in the book department.
  • I lose a lot of books.  Because I encourage my students to take our books home to read, I inevitably lose a lot of books.  While it is hard to think of it from a financial standpoint, I also know that hose books are being read by someone.  So yes, it is hard to constantly replace books (and expensive) but it is something that goes along with being a reading classroom.

So yes, while my district mandates a reading log, it is not the treasure trove of information that I need.  What I need is conversation, observation, reflection, and interaction.  So how do I know my students read?  I ask them and listen.

I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

18 thoughts on “How I Know My Students Are Reading at Home”

  1. Thank you for your awesome post on reading. When I started teaching, I automatically assumed that students already loved to read books. I slowly started to realize that that was not the case. I started taking your suggestions and have been reading books at their level. We enjoy having lots of open dialogue about them and log our thinking. I have noticed a huge difference in how students select books and a lot of the time, they like to read books that I read. Thank you for reminding me to be more mindful in understanding how students read. : )

  2. Reading logs have become the thorn in my side. It has become a great magic show for my struggling readers to have full logs and books they haven’t read. It’s become more of a punishment than an springboard for reading for enjoyment.

  3. Some students will not speak out… might not want their ‘deep’ thoughts to be heard , have all kinds of doubts etc. Writing is a way to start a conversation with them. Hope you don’t mind if I quote you here, ”My students know they are not judged on what they write but rather that I use it as a way to start a conversation with them. I always appreciate their honesty and my actions show that.” Key words: avoiding judgement, :appreciation of student’s honesty, teachers’ credibility. Goodl luck.

  4. I love to discuss books with students. One thing that I started using is to keep track of my books. They have a free app and you upload all your books. Students then checkout and check in your books. You can print reports of missing items as well as lists of books read by students. Yes, I’ve still lost some, but not as many as I use to.

  5. After reading “The Book Whisperer” I was challenged to abandon reading logs. (I knew many of them were filled out in the hall the morning they were due.) Thankfully they are not required for us. As you point out, there are many other ways to know if a student is reading.

    1. Sure, it changes, but it is a written form for them to fill out where they reflect on whether or not they met the goals they had set for that month in reading. They also discuss why or why not and we meet and talk about it. It is incredible to see students take ownership of their goals like this and also hold themselves accountable. I have some of them linked here

  6. Thank you for this post. My husband and I are both teachers and we were just discussing an article and study that showed the negative effects of reading logs on student reading habits. These are all much more authentic and valuable alternatives. (Also, my daughter is named Pernille!)

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