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Real Talk About Reading Logs

Let’s Talk About Reading Logs.

It’s Sunday morning in late April, and I’m pulling out my son’s homework folder. This is a routine that is well established so far into the school year. Each week his teacher sends home a “Reading Log” that I am responsible for filling out, signing and returning on Fridays - it mandates 20 minutes of daily reading.  I get it, I really do. I want my son to love reading and to read every day for joy, curiosity and learning.  But, still, pulling out the Reading Log makes my heart sink a little.  It just doesn’t feel like it is doing what it is supposed to do. It doesn’t feel like the way I want to help my kid become a lifelong reader.  It feels like… a chore.


Maybe it is wrong.

This daily reading practice is intended to help students build habits and improve reading skills and confidence.  If you think about it, what are the habits that are actually forming? What are the associations that are embedded?  I fear that my son takes away the messages that:

  • Reading is a chore, homework, a box to check.
  • There is a “bare minimum” you can do to satisfy the “reading requirement.”

Back at the start of the school year, when my child was showing signs of reluctance and struggling with reading, getting him to read for 20 minutes created serious stress for the both of us!  He’d mope and whine. I’d try a pep talk. He’d start acting out, finding distractions in everything around us. I’d redirect to keep him on task. He’d act silly to resist the reading. I’d feel my patience wearing thin.  He would pretend to not know a word we just sounded out together like 3 seconds ago! I’d lose it! Neither of us were enjoying reading, and yet the pressure to read - boiled down into this 20 minutes of nightly reading - only continued to weigh on me.

The daily reading log reinforced this pattern and these associations almost every. Single. Day.  That is more consistent reinforcement than so many other things I want my son to learn. How often do I remind him that kindness is the most important value, to be grateful for what we have, that our health and the health of this planet are the most important things to protect?  Not nearly as often as I remind him that he needs to read for 20 minutes…If I’m totally honest, I think the reading log is responsible for zapping the fun out of reading…it zaps the joy out of it, even for me!

Maybe I’m doing it wrong.

So, maybe - just maybe - a lot of these negative consequences are totally under my control, and I’m just not doing this whole Reading Log thing with enough intention and mindfulness.  (I’m going to model being very kind to myself here - I have good intentions, want the best for my son, and feel proud of the parent I am considering I work full time, run a business, and daily am making sure my kids are fed, clothed, safe, etc.)  

I have to ask myself, though, could I just make the 20 minutes of reading *work* for us?  How can I use this mandate to reinforce what I want my son to learn:

  • Reading is joyful and adventurous!
  • Reading allows you to learn, to satisfy curiosity, to have more knowledge about the world and how it works!
  • You can never read too much!

***Side note here to acknowledge that there are likely many families who may naturally enjoy or thrive on the checklist method of the reading log.  I enjoy a good checklist in many other areas of life! I don’t expect all parents to relate to this blog post.***



What did/does work for us.

I learned much earlier in the year how to change my son’s relationship to reading, in spite of the rain cloud that is the Reading Log hanging out over our path to a lifelong love of reading.  What worked for us was to find reading materials that appealed to my son’s deepest passions and curiosities, and to follow those outside of the parameters of schoolwork, counting minutes, checklists or bribes (yes, I’ve tried bribery.  Also did not work.)

It started with Dear Izzy. I started Dear Izzy to help Sophia, the daughter of my best friend, who was 2 years older than my son.  When my son hit early reading, I resurfaced that idea of personalized letters in hopes that it would do for Victor what it did for Sophia.  And it did! I also started reading my favorite books from childhood to him. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a compelling magical story, and helped Victor stay motivated to learn to read, so he could read more books like that one!

Where we go from here.

In April, now near the end of the school year, my son is no longer a reluctant reader. I can’t say I attribute much or any of that to the reading logs, which currently work actively against my goals for Victor.  We are still very much on a reading journey, and my next hill to climb will be transforming what we do with our mandatory 20 minutes of reading each day.  I think it is time for me to take more ownership of it, pull the whole thing apart, and put it back together in a way that works for our family and supports our goals.

I’d love your ideas - what are you doing with your daily reading routines that work???