Student Achievement Opinion

Reading Logs Suck!

By Starr Sackstein — November 08, 2016 3 min read
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A student sits on his own accord, reading before class starts. Completely engaged in the book, he doesn’t want the bell to ring.

“Just another minute” he says, “this is a good part; I need to know what happens.” A smile uncontrollably comes over the teacher’s face. I mean, how can you be angry about a student wanting to read more, even if it during class time?

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough students who feel this way about reading. To many it has become a chore, and not the kind of chore they make allowance for.

During a candid conversation after independent reading in my 10th grade English class this week, I asked one student who announced to the class that he hates reading, why?

“It’s boring, Miss!”

“What are you reading?”

“Everything is boring.”

“What do you like?”

“I like soccer.”

“Good, that’s a start. Tomorrow when you come in for independent reading, take out your phone and go on ESPN or your favorite soccer’s club’s website and read from there.”

Sadly, English classes may have sucked the love of reading out of the experience. Whether it is forcing kids to read literature they aren’t connecting to, or the experience of having been forced for so many years, by the time they get to high school, they’re just plain turned off.

Reading logs are part of the reason why.

When students are younger and still excited by the idea of reading because very little bad could be associated with the experience, after all, they’re just learning how, we start to put expectations of accountability on them for what they read and how long they read for.

Logan, now a 6th grader, used to love to read, especially non-fiction books about baseball or nature or science. Now he reads for the allotted time and usually just makes up what he writes on his reading logs. I stopped fighting with him about it. In years past, I’d read through them dutifully and question what he wrote. He’d get angry at me when I’d send him back to the table to gather evidence for what he wrote and a quote from the text with page number that supported it. “My teacher didn’t ask me to do that.”

“I know,” I’d say, “I’m asking you to do it. It’s a valuable skill that will help you in the future.”

He’d do it begrudgingly.

We still read together each night though. He enjoys participating in conversations about the books we are reading together and even the books he reads on his own that aren’t for school. The mere act of assigning accountability logs to the experience has made it about compliance and not about a love of reading.

I do understand that teachers need to have proof that kids are reading because some really wouldn’t, but why not differentiate then. Allow students who are in different places with their reading to do different things. For example:

  • Make a book trailer or teaser once they finish a book
  • Have students make a podcast about the books they are reading with guest hosts each week
  • Keep blog posts responding to the literature once a week or whenever the mood strikes
  • Give book talks in class that inspire other students to read what classmates have loved
  • Get them to the library more and expose them to more kinds of books
  • Have them dress up like a character from their books and hold a mixer in class that allows them to interact as the character in their books
  • Create a social media profile as a character in a book and have them chronicle a day in the life
  • Ask them what they would like to do that is appropriate for the topic they are reading about
  • Have an author study through a mystery skype with the author of a book
  • Encourage correspondance with author’s on Twitter where students ask questions of the text
  • Have students interview the text

A reading log shouldn’t even be an option. There just isn’t anything motivating or substantial about it. What are they being used for? How do they connect to other learning?

We must be mindful in what we ask students to do on their free time and really make sure it’s something worth doing. Do we want them to love reading and spend time doing it because the enjoy it or do we want to monitor their every move and determine how they will interact with text?

You have the power to make this change... so just do it and build a culture of reading in your classes that allows students to bring in knowledge from what they read and teaches them to connect learning from multiple sources.

How do you encourage a love of reading in your classes? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.