The ideal for any teacher is that all of their students love and appreciate reading as much as we hope for them to. The reality, however, is starkly different. It seems now more than ever that kids are ditching the books to sit in front of their computers, TVs, and video games. A lot of teachers use reading logs to enforce their kids to continue reading and often require a parent signature to ensure that they actually did it. Could this be detrimental in the long run? Will the student’s still enjoy reading as much if they are required to do so? Children who read have been shown to have higher academic success but does this outcome still stand if they are doing it recreationally vs by the order of their teacher?
Erica Reischer, a psychologist and parent, has long opposed reading logs for a number of reasons. There has been abundant research on the negative impacts of external controls, such as rewards and assigned goals, and their influence on intrinsic motivation. Students are no longer interested to read just for the pleasure of reading. They are only motivated to do so because of this external factor. Reischer makes the comparison to if you assigned a student to draw pictures for at least 20 min each day, making sure they recorded the number of pictures that they drew and the colors that they used. This student is more than likely not going to enjoy drawing, only doing so because it is required of them.
There was a study published a few years prior examining the differences between students being given a mandatory reading log and those in a voluntary group. The results showed students in the mandatory group had a diminished level of interest in reading while those in the voluntary group had an increase in interest.
Other concerns with reading logs are the limitations they impose. Most often, teachers ask students to read for a certain amount of time per week or per night and most often students will only read to this certain extent and then stop. They will not surpass the time limit because they were not asked to. I remember as a child this was certainly me. I definitely remember enjoying to read but when reading logs were introduced I only fulfilled the amount that was asked of me.
Another problem with reading logs is the honor code. Now for elementary kids, it is more reasonable as their parents are most likely monitoring the children while they are reading. They also aren’t very old yet and are most likely doing as their teacher says anyway. When students reach about the middle school age, I have seen from personal experience the number of students that fabricate their reading logs. It would be 15 min prior to class starting and students would be scrambling to make up book titles and the supposed pages of reading they read each night. What is the possibility of compelling students to read without mandating it? Is there an effective way to implement this?