Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Reading Logs Be Gone


I love books and discussions that get me thinking. I naturally reflect on my own teaching practice and I’m happy to ponder why something should or shouldn’t be done and what is ‘best practice’. Reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller brought up ponderings for me about my literacy choices, most pointedly when it came to the idea of reading logs.

Last year I had an evolution of reading logs. I moved from using a paper version to an e-version. I made this switch for a few reasons.
Why kill trees?
I had Googlified my class and using a Google Form was an easy alternative.
I hope to get to teach 1:1 some day and in preparation for that dreamt eventuality I look for what I would change.
All of these led me to utilizing e-logs.

This fall has brought a further evolution to my thinking and practice. In her book, Donalyn Miller questions the purpose of reading logs. Yipee! A chance to ponder and reflect!
Is the point to have homework?
To make students read?
To be an authentic record of reading?
Hopefully we are looking for the latter, but probably with a dash of ‘let’s make sure they are reading’, but does it work? I know I have students who fill out their log all at once, sometimes even in the hall as it is due.

So, does a reading log actually serve as an authentic tool? Is it something you use as a reader? I don’t. I do not keep track of the number of pages I read each day nor the minutes read. I do keep track of books I’ve read and so do my students. Why would I ask them to do something different then what I find helpful as a reader? So I threw them out, both on paper and virtually.

I had a very frank conversation with my students about their reading and their logs. I told them that I required a reading log for the first month of school as a way to help them establish good reading habits at home. They told me how and when they were filling out their logs. The logs, for most of them, were an artificial record and not a motivator of reading. We realized that we all read because they want to know what happens next, not because of a log that is supposed to be filled in. I made a deal with my students. If they promise to read every night I promise to not give them busy work or an artificial assessment. I also made the logs available to those couple of students who do find the accountability helpful. I also emailed the parents to let them know of the change and the reasons behind it. I now have a room full of happy readers and no reading logs.


  1. What a wonderful conversation. Engaging kids with inspiration from Donalyn Miller and taking the issue right to them.

  2. I agree--it's so important to talk with kids about their reading. I just finished reading The Book Whisperer too and found it validating. So much of what I believe about reading she articulated so well.

  3. Authentic is what comes to my mind as I read this post. Good for you trusting your students! Donalyn Miller is such an inspiration.

  4. I like how you let us follow your trail of thinking. I have found that both Donalyn Miller and Nancie Atwell advocate for the joy of reading and for creating a culture of reading in the classroom. Your classroom has both.
    (International School of Estonia)

  5. Well, I guess you could say that you're preaching to the choir, here. I agree too, and want only for students to love reading, take challenges on occasion, and talk to me and to each other about books. Read Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life, right in there with the others, maybe interesting for your students, too.

  6. "How Reading Changed My Life" is a fabulous read!!! I've been working with "The Book Whisperer" too. Are you or your students on the Good Reads website? I follow Donalyn and she updates daily :).

  7. Sounds like a great reflection on your teaching and a meaningful change! I agree with "b" about the Good Reads website -- having your students use that or Shelfari could be a more meaningful way to have your students reflect on their reading. Or offline, I know a lot of teachers at my school have students write book reviews/recommendations about books they have read, which they then post on a bulletin board. You could have students do something like that, which would fit with your observation that we usually keep track of what we have read, not when/how much. :-)

  8. @teacherdance & b - just checked out How Reading Changed My Life to my Kindle. Thanks for the recommendation.

    @JenniferM - The book review / recommendation is the next idea that has been running around in my head. I like the idea of Amazon type of reviews rather than 'typical' book reviews. I like the idea of having a real life, 'grown up' use to model them after. I had planned to start them yesterday, but out internet was out so we couldn't go exploring the models. As I punted we started into something that will take a few days. This is a good reminder / motivator to get it rescheduled.

  9. It is so easy to get lost in the doing and forget the true intention behind it. Kudos to you for taking time to reflect. I had the opportunity to hear Donalyn Miller speak last year at our state reading conference. She is "one of us" in the truest sense.

  10. As a parent, reading logs are one of my least favorite things to nag my child about. Good for you for following your instinct and trusting your students. they will remember it.