being a teacher, being me, Reading, Reading Identity

An Email Requesting For Our Children To Not Have to Do Reading Logs

Inevitably, every few years, one of our four children brings home some variant of a reading log. Typically it involves logging the minutes that that they have read every night, a signature, perhaps the titles as well and sometimes even the need to write a few lines about the book they read. Often times it is tied in with a reward; pizza, parties, extra recess.

And while it used to anger me that kids (and their adults) were being asked to do this work, I have realized that the request for a reading log is typically not anchored in any kind of malice. Rather, it is sent home with a genuine interest in the reading lives outside of school. With a hope that a child will make the time to read. With the hope that a family will make the time to read because it is now expected as homework. What is the harm in that? So every time we are presented with one, I find myself in a dilemma; do I say anything, ask for my child to be opted out, or do I let the practice ride? After all, there are bigger things to worry about when it comes to the reading experience of children.

And yet, I have seen the damage that the simple requirements of a reading log has done to my own children. When our oldest came home with our first one, she asked for a timer, set it for 20 minutes and when the alarm went off, she resolutely shut her book and told us she was done. No matter that she was in the the middle of a page, no matter that the previous nights she had read for a much longer time. The 20 minutes was all she needed to read. Or our son, who when he did a book logging program that offered up prizes didn’t care so much as to what he was reading or having read aloud, but instead would pick the shortest books in order to log as many titles as possible, so that he could get whatever prize was attached to the amount of books. Or how they make me a liar. I don’t know what my children are reading often, they are surrounded by books and while we talk about them we don’t always. So when I am supposed to sign off on their minutes or write down their titles, I do it gladly, without really knowing if it is true or not. Should I know every minute read and every book read, sure, if I had unlimited time in the day. Instead, we discuss many things in our household, books included, and focus on our time together not just the homework they have to do.

When I ask my students to discuss their negative experiences, reading logs rise to the top. It doesn’t matter if it was only for one year or even for a shorter amount of time, having to account for the minutes read did little to inspire further reading, but instead added yet another to-do to their to-read. So last night I sent out the following tweet, and with that comes this post, because it turns out there were many that also have wondered how to advocate for their own child when faced with a reading log or other potentially harmful measures.

So I have an email that I send when the reading log comes home, and I do hesitate to share it here because I am sure to some it is not enough, and yet, in my years of teaching, I have found that engaging in dialogue with other teachers about their practices from a lens of genuine interest is going to take me so much further than citing research, telling them about the wrongness of their choices, or in any other way trying to prove that I am right and that they made a mistake. No teacher wants to be shamed, and why should they be for this?

So the email I send in its edited form is simple:

Hi,
I saw the reading log sent home today and wanted to ask a few questions, if you don’t mind. 

A big focus for our family is that reading is its own reward so we don’t tie anything to her reading; no minutes, no prizes.  She needs to understand that reading is something you do for personal enjoyment and not outside gifts. In the past, when (insert child’s name here) has seen the time requirement, she right away told me that was all she had to read for.  We don’t want her to think that there should be a maximum time for reading, but instead follow her natural rhythm for reading when she has a great book.

Are you ok with us not filling it out and instead me giving you my word that (insert child’s name here) reads every night for at least 30 minutes?   Is there another way we can show our accountability to reading? We read every day so it won’t be a problem.  

I hope this doesn’t come off as rude, I don’t really know how to put it in other words.  We love you as a teacher and so does our child and want you to feel supported. If you would like to discuss this in any way please let us know.
Best,

Pernille

I could cite the research, I could go on for a long time about the damage of reading logs and offer up other ways to measure reading. Or I can simply ask questions and see what happens. We have never needed to do any of those other steps because often it is not the teacher that mandates the reading log but rather a team, a school, or a district. And that teacher deserves my respect and gratitude for the care they give our children.

Would I though if I had to? Of course. The reading lives of my own children and others is too important to let linger in harmful practices. So here are my other posts on reading logs if you need them, including one that discusses how you can make it an option or other ways to see if kids are reading. For now, I will wait to hear back.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

16 thoughts on “An Email Requesting For Our Children To Not Have to Do Reading Logs”

  1. I love your posts – especially about reading logs. I am a parent of 3 – 18,16,14. I am also a teacher. I am currently teaching 2nd grade. I use reading logs because it’s what has always been done. I am torn. However, I guess I look more at the reading logs for those students who don’t read. My boys never wanted to read. It was always a battle. When they would bring home a reading log, they would at least get that amount of reading in at night. They never found that joy in reading.

    In my class, even without the logs, I know who is reading and who is not. When a family stops turning one in even without a nice letter like yours I just allow it because I know those kids are reading daily with no prompting.

    I am just curious do you ever hear from parents who say the reading log encouragers non readers?

    Thanks, Michelle

    Sent from my iPhone

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    1. I have not, but that does not mean they don’t exist. That is also why I tell teachers that perhaps they can make it an option for a family if they feel the tool will help motivate their kids. I like the aspect of involving the family to help make educational decisions with us when it makes sense. That also invites further conversation at times in regard to reading.

  2. Hello! So as a parent – I 100% agree with you! As a teacher, I want to stress to parents – the work is the reading, the reading is the work. I don’t send assignments with the reading. I don’t offer prizes or punishments. I don’t provide other homework. I want the kids to read. I want to know that my kids read and WHAT they read so. I can bring that outside reading back into my classroom. So what other ways do you suggest doing this? Parents often see reading as something “if we have time” after they kill and drill stuff that is not meant to be killed and drilled. Even when the importance of reading is discussed, how do we get parents who do not see the value of reading or love to read themselves to be on board? Thank you! Amy

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    1. There is not a simple answer to this, but I know that it is a community effort. What are schools highlighting as important? Are there literacy events? Are kids being handed books to take home and keep over breaks? Are families invited in for great reading events? I discuss how important reading for enjoyment is frequently in our newsletters and in our conversations, as well as pass this message on to students. I don’t think reading logs do that (in my experience).

      1. I have to agree with Amy. As a teacher we have adjusted the log in many different ways. Nothing tied to prizes but information for me to use when I conference with students. I cannot meet with each child daily so having this record helps both the child and the teacher. This year we are doing an online log that asks the title, pages, genre, and answering 2 basic questions when the book is done. We account for abandoned books as well. This log is completely the child’s responsibility and has nothing to do with the parent. I would hope you understand that not all reading logs are the “devil”

  3. This year I’ve dedicated 10 mins every period to silent reading. I tell the kids the purpose is for fun. No questions, no logs, no discussions unless they just want to tell me how much they love their book. My reading coach and AP have both asked, “How are you holding them accountable?” and then proceed to offer suggestions. I tell them all I need to see is a gleam in their eye and a smile on their face. I refuse to tie anything that even remotely feels like an assignment to this fun reading. If this is the hill my career dies on, it will be worth it to those kids who finally realize reading is a pleasure.

    1. I’m doing 15 minutes once a week during our block period. I’m reading with them. I’m excited to see the results, not matter how slow those results might be. AND I’m reminding myself that this is an important commitment as I consider that we are slightly behind in The Crucible and I “need” to get caught up. This is will be a yearlong blog post in the works.

  4. My daughter just started Kindergarten and it is my understanding that this year and next year will predominantly be reading logs as homework. Along with a super annoying video that I gave grown to enjoy over the month. Our teacher said they get 1 point for watching the video and 1 point for reading (and writing their favorite part).

    I guess the newbie parent in me doesn’t mind it and it’s only M-TH. The other side is like eh we’re going to read a bedtime story anyway and my kid loves to read so it’s more remembering to write it down is the battle…

    But I can see how if a student is a non-reader it could create frustration with the system. Reading should be fun regardless- which is probably why I only read a handful of required books in HS 🤣 and I can also see how it encourages family time. Some kids aren’t lucky to have that environment.

    Ending it… I feel like if opt out was an option those kids who don’t get family time or hate reading would probably never read. So I guess why fix something that isn’t broken?

  5. Debbie, I think all of my posts talk about the nuances of reading logs, in fact, I discuss often how we can bring those things into the classroom rather than making it a home requirement. If we want kids to log and do all these things then we should give them the time to do so in class, outside of class; let them read. Many of my students read before they go to bed, as do I, they don’t want to get up and log stuff and neither would I.

  6. I love this and have always felt the same way! I am an 8th grade reading teacher and have raised four children of my own. The AR point system used years ago used to make my skin crawl! Thank you for all your positive insights. I love getting your emails each morning. Have a great day!

    1. Hi, I left a comment but not sure it posted. When the reading log is part of homework and they get docked for it… it’s a sticky situation. Also, having to read with what the teacher thinks is their reading level causes issue. My daughter is in 4th grade and they had her pick a book out geared for 2nd to 3rd grade reading level. She is uninterested and wants to read her Minecraft the island which is at a 5th/6th grade level. She can read it and understands the vocabulary. She is 10. They will test her in a week for reading. Because she was in the Linda mood bell reading program last year her reading has improved leaps and bounds. She read 4 books over the summer.
      Her teacher told us she could read whatever she wanted at home but she needed to stay in her reading level at school. She now has to read her assigned book Rascal. Compare that with Minecraft the island…
      Any advice appreciated. She is at a special school for kid who cannot cope in a typical school and have learning differences. I’m wondering if they are putting her in the same category as the other kids who do struggle more.

  7. Hi Pernille – I’m wondering if the activity I’ve described below falls into your definition of the dreaded reading log:

    I’m a K-3 teacher librarian. Following the philosophy of Steven Layne in his book “Igniting a Passion for Reading” and Donalyn Miller in “The Book Whisperer” we are in the second year of having 2nd and 3rd grade students set a goal for the number of books they think they can read and then they keep a list of the books. That’s it. They are encouraged to read whatever they want without regard to reading level, genre, etc. There are general reminders to write the name of the book that they read (or that someone read to them) on the log, but it’s low pressure. Students are allowed to modify their goal anytime. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks.

  8. High Data. I have worked in two school systems where the reason we were told that the students WOULD keep reading logs were High Data. We needed to prove that we were doing what we were being paid to do.

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