Looking @ Reading Logs & the School Librarian

Looking @ Reading Logs & the School Librarian - Reading Logs can discourage students or they can be valuable enhancements for reading promotion. A perceptive School Librarian can develop reading promotion tools to make a School Library Reading Program preferred by teachers and enjoyed by students. #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #reading #readinglogs #ELA #socialstudiesDo your teachers use Reading Logs to document student reading? Does your “school policy” dictate that teachers employ reading logs with students? If so, you—and some of your teachers—may be asking these questions:

  • What is the purpose of reading logs?
  • Are some reading logs better than others?
  • What are the alternatives to reading logs?

If you were an elementary or ELA teacher before becoming a School Librarian you may accept reading logs as a normal part of the classroom experience. I’m a School Librarian from a different subject background, and I have some concerns about this practice.

THE PURPOSE OF READING LOGS

Many teachers believe a reading log is a good way to develop students as readers:

  • They keep track of books they’ve read and which ones they liked.
  • They learn which kinds of stories (subjects/genres) they prefer.
  • They self-assess and understand themselves as readers.
  • Teachers can dialogue with students about their reading.

These are admirable purposes, but too often the result is forced daily reading and recording the number of minutes and/or pages on a chart, to be signed by a parent, and turned in to the teacher. I saw hundreds of these during a quick image search, and here’s a typical layout:

Excerpt of a typical Reading Log

Unfortunately, this type of reading log doesn’t really fulfill any of a reading log’s intended purposes!

Such reading logs were the topic a few years ago on Scott McLeod’s blog “Dangerously Irrelevant”, based on a blog post by parent Lisa Morguess, who had this to say:

  • A reading log says, “I don’t trust you to read.”
  • They turn reading into a chore.
  • Time spent matters more than content or understanding.
  • This is not learning – it’s obedience.

There were dozens of comments on both posts, and commenter Mark was particularly anguished:

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. My daughter loves to read, but now her pride isher log, rather than discussing her books in great detail as she did just this past summer, when there was no log.

As a School Librarian, I think this type of reading log is not about students at all–it’s about teacher accountability. How else can a teacher “prove” that they are “teaching” kids to “love reading”? For many years we had free reading at our school with great success. One year teachers were told to have students “document” the time they were reading by filling out reading logs and using weekly bookmarks with daily questions to answer. To comply, some teachers even began to dictate what kind and how many books students must check out at their library visits. Well, that year our state test scores dropped, and some of our best ELA teachers left for less rigid environments. All the fun had gone out of reading, so after 2 years we went back to free—and undocumented—reading (and our reading scores went back up)!

SOME READING LOGS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS

Some Reading Logs Are Better Than Others! - Students like to keep track of books they read, but forced recording of time and pages discourages even the most voracious reader. Here's how School Librarians can give students a better way to track reading that also satisfies teacher & administrative demands. #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #reading #readinglogs #independentreadingAs a Middle School Librarian I quickly discovered that students like to keep track of books they read, so I created a simple Reading Record with space for the title and author of the book and a star rating for the student to indicate how much they’d enjoyed the book. It wasn’t required and the forms were on the circulation desk for students to put into their binder.

Then, four consecutive developments prompted me to re-evaluate reading promotion:

  1. We became an International Baccalaureate school, which encourages global-mindedness.
  2. I reorganized our Fiction book area by Subjects (genres) using pictorial spine stickers & color transparent label covers.
  3. The district English Language Arts department launched the Reader/Writer Workshop model and R/W Notebooks.
  4. The district Social Studies department instituted Interactive Notebooks and advocated for more content area reading to support their curriculum.

I could see an interconnection among these events for more—and better—student reading. First, I identified more of our Fiction books that had multicultural characters and added relevant spine stickers. Then, seeing the value in reorganizing Fiction, I created 3 Special Collections for Social Studies, one of which focused on global books. Finally, I modified my Library Orientation Lessons to incorporate the wide variety of reading options and I created brand new Reading Records:

  • for ELA, a legal-sized sheet for students to fold in half and paste into their Reader/Writer Notebook:
    image of ELA Reading Record to paste into the student Reader/Writer Notebook #NoSweatLibrary #reading #ELA

    click to enlarge

    1. a reading chart with images of the 8 main Fiction Subject stickers,
    2. a chart with images of 5 Multicultural stickers,
    3. a chart with 2 additional Fiction Subject stickers, our State Reading List sticker, a space for an expository text informational book, and a space for a poetry book.

I later modified this Reading Record by moving the State Reading list to the Multicultural chart and added grade-level Social Studies books to the third chart so students (by agreement between teachers) could enter the same Narrative Fiction and Expository Informational books for both classes.

  • for Social Studies, a letter-sized sheet for students to paste into their Interactive Notebook, one for each course:
    1. a chart for 6g with images of the continents identifying their GlobeTrekker collection
    2. a chart for 7g with reading options for their Sensational State collection (Totally Texas for us)
    3. a chart for 8g with reading options for their Read America collection

Content Reading in Social Studies - Sample Reading Records, Bookmarks, Stickers for 3 grades in Middle School.

My ELA teachers were elated with their new Reading Record and preferred it over the one provided by the district. The next year the Social Studies teachers asked to have copies of their customized Reading Record for their students to paste into their Interactive Notebooks. From that time on, I copy and distribute to ELA and Social Studies teachers enough Reading Records so each student can paste one into their Reader/Writer and Interactive Notebooks when they create them during the first week of school.

ALTERNATIVES TO READING LOGS

To help students locate and keep track of similar kinds of stories, I created topic-oriented bookmarks. Copied to both sides of colorful card-stock and cut apart, I provide over 2 dozen different bookmarks to students, and they’re a big hit. Some students used the same topical bookmark over and over, as means to track books read, crossing off titles as they read them. Other students used them as a search tool, choosing a new one each time they visit to try a new book topic.

Snip of several colorful topical bookmarks side-by-side

Colorized examples of topical bookmarks

While reading the comments on the blogs mentioned above, I thought Mike F’s comment would be a cool idea for older students:

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 would definitely revisit the literary letter instead of falling back on reading logs.

Student Reading Logs can be horribly discouraging for students or they can be valuable enhancements to any reading program for English Language Arts and other content areas. A perceptive School Librarian can see the interconnections between content reading and develop tools that will make a School Library Reading Program preferred by teachers and enjoyed by students.

If you use Reading Logs in your School Library, please share what they’re like, how you use them, and how successful they are with increasing—and improving—student reading!

line of books laying down

If you, too, want to increase reading & improve student achievement, get Reading for ELA, Content Reading for Social Studies, or the Reading Promotion for ELA & Social Studies bundle from my NoSweat Library store on TeachersPayTeachers.
Entice your students to read a variety of Fiction Subjects and other literary genres for English Language Arts class. Perfect for the school library or for an ELA teacher's classroom library. Lesson slide presentation, Reading Record for Reader/Writer Notebook, Bookmark of Fiction Subjects, Book spine labels for 11 Fiction Subjects, 6 Multicultural, State Reading List. #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #readingpromotion #ELA #reading #middleschool Entice your students to read a variety of Fiction and NonFiction books to get better grades in their Social Studies classes. Customized reading promotion for 3 common Middle School courses: World Cultures/Geography, State History, and U.S. History. Make Library visits relevant and meaningful. You will find this middle school Reading Promotion Bundle a valuable tool to promote content area reading for both English Language Arts and Social Studies, and to minimize the time it takes students to find something to read.

 

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