In class the other day we discussed different strategies to get students to read more. Growing up, a common assignment I had in my language arts classes were reading logs. These logs were often printed on brightly colored paper and we were required to read a minimum of thirty minutes each night. Every day we were supposed to record what we read and how long we read for each night. Parents were also required to initial after each night proving that us students actually read. Every few weeks or so, our teachers would announce that we would have a reading log check and we would have to bring in this bright piece of paper completely filled out to receive credit. The premise behind them was to hold students and their parents accountable for their continued growth in reading at home.
Now, I do not know about all of you, but these reading logs were the last thing on everyone’s mind in my schools. Sure, I believe that most of the other students did read at home, but no one really kept up with the log because they were so tedious. Often when the teacher announced that we would have a reading log check, panic ensued. Students would have to figure out where they left their logs, others would frantically try to recall what books they had been reading, and a common theme in my schools, most would have their parents sign the logs the night before and switch the pens every few entries to make it look more “realistic.” This panic associated with these logs really seems to defeat the purpose of trying to encourage students to read more.
Although there was always this panic, I highly doubt that any of the students in my schools were not reading outside of school. Often we had to read a class book for our language arts classes and come prepared to discuss them the next day, or take a quiz on the readings. We read, but keeping up with these reading logs made reading seem like a chore. Instead of encouraging us to read, these logs really just seemed like busy work.
In addition, other schools in my area often associated prizes with students who kept up with their logs or read a certain number of hours. I believe that incentivizing reading defeats part of the purpose of reading logs. I think that the main goal of these brightly colored sheets or paper was to help develop a love and a thirst for reading for students. By incentivizing reading at home, students now only see the value of reading when associated with a tangible prize.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about silent reading in schools. I stated how even though silent reading was not proven to be effective in the NRP, I still believe that it works better to encourage students to read. Perhaps having students silent read in class or read for thirty minutes during school instead of at home would help foster good reading habits for students. With these reading logs, students could just lie and say that they read (which I feel likely happens based off of my experiences in schools). I think that encouraging the reading at school would then encourage students to read at home because they will get wrapped up in a story or series and want to continue it once they are home. Also, assigning a certain readings for homework would also foster better reading habits. Although I think that reading logs have good intentions, I feel that the execution of them is flawed. Reading should not be seen as a chore or as a way to get a prize. I believe encouraging students to read during school would foster better reading habits than forcing them to read for a specific amount of time at home.