Since I was home yesterday, I was online to see a neighbor's irritated post about her son's reading log assignment. Apparently, his homework was to read 500 pages during the month of December. Mom diligently signed off on the first 470 pages within the first couple weeks of the month, while school was still in session. But over break, even though her son did read, she forgot to sign his paper. The result was an unhappy second grader with a failing grade on his reading assignment.
Reading is important. Any educator can tell you that. And the intention behind a reading log, commonly used in K-8 classrooms, is positive: encourage reading. The problem, in my opinion, though, is that they don't work.
When I was subbing and working toward my teaching certificate, I saw many reading logs at many grade levels. Although the approach varied (some teachers require only a record of time spent reading and pages read while others require short summaries), the result was always the same: it didn't motivate student reading. In fact, I think it often does the opposite by making reading a fight between parents and children.
I have plenty of students who read on their own. Whenever they have even a few minutes of free time between activities, their noses are deep into thick novels that I basically have to pry out of their hands. But do you know what I learned? Many of these very students were the ones with failing grades on their reading logs! Why? Because these students are reading for the joy of reading and aren't worried about recording their every page. Or because they forget to take their sheets home for the required parent signatures. So, in this case, a reading log punishes students who actually read because their parents aren't signing off on it. Dumb!
Even more common, though, were reading logs that were completely falsified. Students who forge their parents' signatures (I was totally that kid, I admit it) and/or make up stories about what they supposedly read. On more than one occasion, I've seen incomplete reading logs with parent signatures down the page... so the students can fill in whatever they want. And you know what? These students end up getting full credit because their sheets are complete by the time they're collected on Friday. So, in this case, a reading log rewards students for lying. Also dumb!
And not once did I ever use a reading log.
*** Note: I have posted a follow up to this post to address many of the questions I've been asked. Please see my new post here, and of course, let me know if you need further directions. :)