Reading logs aren’t learning, they’re obedience

Lisa Morguess says:

What is the point of reading logs, anyway?  Teachers want kids to read – I get that.  But a reading log says, “I don’t trust you to read, so you must prove to me that you actually read for the prescribed number of minutes by writing down what you read and for how long you read.  And even then, I won’t take your word for it, so have your mom or dad sign the reading log as a witness that you actually did said reading, because you cannot be trusted.”

Here’s what reading logs actually do: they turn reading into a chore.  They teach kids that time spent matters more than content or understanding of content.  Reading logs tell kids that they are untrustworthy and must continually prove themselves.  They send the message that kids cannot be independent learners – they must rely on Mom and Dad to back them up.

This is not learning – it’s obedience.


21 Responses to “Reading logs aren’t learning, they’re obedience”

  1. So true! I have always hated the idea of reading being a part of the expectation for ELA. Mostly I have detested this because to me reading should be taught as a leisure activity and not an academic one. We should encourage the youth to read for pleasure, not just for work. In fact we should educate the next generation to do both simultaneously. I hate (maybe too strong a word) reading as HW because to me it devalues it as an entertainment activity when it becomes a chore. Assign reading, test it,; and if the student doesn’t show their knowledge from the reading then perhaps they didn’t read it.

  2. Scott, do you have any posts about required silent reading time in middle school? I’m currently trying to convince others to revamp our “mandatory thirty minutes of silent reading” before lunch. I feel like I’m one of those teachers killing reading as I sit there and watch for students that are talking and not reading. It’s happening in my whole school. I need some ammo to get us out of this.

    • Actually, silent reading times are one of the reading methods consistently backed up by research. Instead of trying to get out of allowing your students to have time to read (without an accompanying test or book report) why don’t you look at ways to get your kids excited about reading – book discussions, author studies, sharing about the books YOU choose to read? It’s not that hard, unless you have a bad attitude.

      • Our 8th graders willingly read a current events magazine during our E & R period (Enrichment and Remediation) when the new issue of NYTimes Upfront arrives. I leave them on their desks in the morning, and assure them that they don’t have to read it–it’s just there for my classes later in the day. 🙂 I enjoy hearing their text-related conversations drift my way as I wander the room setting up for my day, knowing they are building background knowledge of life in the Sudan or what happens when the President proposes an increase of the minimum raise, or how to read a political cartoon.

  3. I agree and disagree. Reading logs help students see their reading patterns and preferences. They help students keep track of what they have read and if they liked it. Don’t get me wrong, some teachers may make logging too labor intensive, but there is definitely purpose. Maybe utilizing an app like Goodreads is an option?

    • The reading logs that my kids get on require the number of minutes and parent signature. There is nothing about what the book was, the author, genre, or anything else. Now that my daughter is in 7th grade, I there is a requirement to read a certain number of books from various genres. I detest the reading logs.

  4. The reading log is a poor intervention for what is NOT happening at home–reading. My kids read because their parents read. Kids will do things they see are valued by those most important to them–parents, peers, celebrities. If they aren’t reading (and they aren’t), and so little in the culture is encouraging reading, we can’t expect (as we almost always do) that the schools can “fix it.”

  5. I think that parents, and sometimes teachers, misunderstand the purpose behind reading logs. They are used for more than forced reading. I am not saying that some teachers do not utilize it for that reason, but there is so much more insight that a teacher can gain by having parents track their child’s reading.

  6. My daughter never uses the book she is actually reading and enjoying for her reading log. She sets a timer, reads part of a book she’s already read, writes her log and then goes back to reading the book she loves. I think her actions prove your point that to use the books she loves in a log somehow spoils the enjoyment..

  7. As with any educational tool, thoughtful purpose and active relevance are key to their effectiveness. I complete agree with some of the sentiments expressed by Morguess regarding reading logs as they are most regularly used and experienced, but this year, I had a positive experience with Reading Logs.
    My comment became too long, so I made it a blog post:

  8. Yes, reading logs suck the life out of independent reading. I love an alternative model from Jim Mahoney in his awesome book, Power and Portfolios. He does “literary letters” where students write more deeply about what they are reading and thinking, and exchange letters with classmates about once a week. I tried this last year with my 12th grade reading class, but eventually abandoned them, for what I see now was my own lack of proper scaffolding and modeling that made the experience less than desirable. It was only my second year teaching, so I am still learning! If I teach reading again in the future I would definitely revisit the literary letter instead of falling back on reading logs.

  9. Reading shouldn’t be a chore. Let’s find students texts that are so interesting and tailored to their personal interests that they can’t put the book/magazine/laptop down!

  10. Really, isn’t any type of homework merely an exercise in obedience? If a student already knows a skill, practicing it at home is just showing that they are obedient and do what you ask. If they do not already know a skill, then sending it home for them to do as homework does not teach them anything; in fact, in that case, they may even fail at being obedient – not because they aren’t, but because they cannot do the skill you want them to do.

  11. Reading in school, without any interaction or reflection, written or verbal, is simply not a good idea. Look up the research.

    I’d be great if a post like this backed up the ideas with research.

    • Jerry, would you be kind enough to share some of this research with us? Because obviously many children and adults – both at home and at school – do a tremendous amount of reading that doesn’t involve written/verbal interaction or reflection. I confess that I’m reluctant to believe that all of that reading is ‘not a good idea.’

  12. @ Derek – 30 minutes is silent reading every day, school-wide in middle school?!?! What an incredible gift!! The best and most current research in reading tells us that the number one way to improve reading comprehension is to let students read. Period. Nothing else is more effective than time to read. If you see students who aren’t engaged, try helping them find an amazing book or magazine. See it as an opportunity to not only grow a relationship, but help a kid become a reader! Get some audiobooks for reluctant readers. Read aloud with them. Suggest the 30 minutes not come directly before lunch. But whatever you do, don’t advocate to get rid if that sacred time. Most middle schools would kill for that time.

    I think reading logs can be meaningful tools for teachers to collect data about their readers, and for students to understand themselves as readers. It has to be done thoughtfully so that it’s not a burden. And the minute requirements that parents sign in the car before dropping their kids off are usually not effective for most kids. However, I’ve had some good experiences with the right kinds of reading logs that aren’t too laborious. And, of course, the logs can be differentiated as soon as you know your readers. A voracious reader may rarely need to do a log, but a student who struggles may learn a lot from his/her log. the log should never be worth points ir graded. I think it’s a more nuanced issue, and it doesn’t have to be about trust. It’s about using everything we know about kids to help them become better, and more importantly, passionate readers.

  13. And…what’s wrong with obedience? !!

    When our kids grow up and get a job in the “real world” they will need to “obey” their boss, and other authorities in their lives. They will be required to submit time sheets or time logs in a lot of cases. Look, the schools aren’t requiring our kids to read anything specific…just READ! Believe me, they read, they read on the web, they read at the doctor’s office, they read recipes, they read instructions, athletic play books, they read magazines, they read the cereal box…it’s words into their brains instead of mush, like TV or video games. There is absolutely nothing wrong with reading logs. Just sign it and get over it!

  14. Reading logs are not about students–they are about teacher accountability. How else can a teacher “prove” that they are “teaching” kids a “love of reading”? (And, yes, I’m being sarcastic.)

    For many years we had free reading at our school & everyone loved it. Suddenly two years ago we began “Readers/Writers Workshop” & teachers had to begin “documenting” that students were reading by having them fill out reading logs. Now our teachers drill kids with “reading bookmarks” & dictate what kind of books & how many books they must check out. A lot of the fun has gone out of it.

    Needless to say, several of our best teachers left for less rigid environments. Oh, and our state test scores dropped last year. Hmmm.

  15. As I read this and completely agree, I shudder at the very recent memory of my 5th grade daughter proudly bringing me her reading log to show me how much she had read this week and then, of course, get me to sign it.

    While the teacher has explained that students just use this log as a self-assessment tool and a place from which to continue ongoing dialogues about what they are reading with parents and teacher alike, this post has made me rethink this a bit.

    My daughter loves to read, but now her pride is getting wrapped up in what she is producing about her reading – her log, rather than discussing her books in great detail as she did just this past summer, when there was no log.

    I have to wonder: When the fun of producing the log turns into a rote burden (which it will – she’s a 5th grader), will the feelings of drudgery transfer to her love for reading?

Leave a Reply