Before you can answer that question, you have to ask yourself another question…what is the purpose for reading logs? I asked this of the teachers in my district and got responses like these:
- “To hold kids accountable for their reading.”
- “For students to track their reading throughout the week.”
- “To encourage children to read at home.”
- “A way for families to track their at home reading progress. A way for the teacher to see this progress.”
But then I also got comments like:
- “I don’t use them anymore, as I don’t that they accurately reflect student reading!”
- ” I turned out to be more work for me and little return for the students in terms of reading achievement so I am not doing them this year.”
So I think questions we need to ask ourselves might include:
- Are you finding as a teacher YOU are doing more work with reading logs than your students?
- Are your students doing more tracking, responding, and ‘accountability’/documenting than they are actually reading?
- “What is my purpose? Do logs meet that purpose?”
Let’s consider why we might want to track reading. To do this, I reflect on why “real life“ readers might want to do this. I certainly don’t track the number of pages read for each book, but I like to keep a history of what I have read. I like to look at my choices and reflect on them from time to time. I like to get recommendations based on what I have previously enjoyed. I like to be able to share titles with others and see who has similar interests.
Let’s think about how “real life“ readers do this. Well, I keep a running list of books I’ve read in the back of my journal, I am an avid Goodreads member, I post albums of books to Facebook, I tweet out titles during chats, I share photos on Instagram, I give book talks to teachers and students. This tracking is a social connection as well as personal recollection.
If your purpose is that students will read more, read widely, share their reading lives, and enjoy reading enough to make it a habit, then let your choices for tracking their reading meet that purpose! Here are a few ideas you could test out.
GOOGLE SLIDES Kids can keep an ongoing ‘slide show’ of books that they have read during the year. Each slide could contain an image of the book jacket, a review or summary, a rating (1-5 stars) a link to a book trailer or author information. They can be as creative as they’d like. The presentation could be shared with parents at conferences, to the class for inspiration, or printed out as documentation of reading.
BIBLIONASIUM The Goodreads for kids! They get their very own virtual bookshelf, where they can keep track of what they’ve read, and what they want to read and can sort them by date, title, or author. The site suggests recommendations based on selections, creates challenges, They can share book recommendations with friends and can get your friends to suggest books you’ll like. It’s FREE, and it is a safe.
PADLET A virtual bulletin board/wall of the books you have read can be created with Padlet. Students can track their books with links and see what others are reading. You could create a padlet for your read aloud where students could post comments or responses to questions. There are many great uses for Padlet in the classroom you can see if you click HERE or HERE.
SYMBALOO is a free cloud-based bookmarking service. Students could create a page of books they have read, and link them to the author’s webpage, a book trailer or a review so that if others click on the image they can get instant information about the book. You can check out other uses for Symbaloo in the classroom HERE.
Here are a few “non-techie” options to help document a reader’s history for the year.
ILLUSTRATED BOOK SHELVES – kids draw book spines that look like the original to help others “spot” these books. Create different pages for “MUST READS”/”SO-SO”/”NO-GO” Or by genre, month, whatever! Be as creative as you’d like. Let kids determine the format, style, and function.
READER’S NOTEBOOKS If your goal is that students will think deeply or differently about what they read, provide them the space and time to respond to what they have read in meaningful ways. Let them design a Reader’s Notebook that reflects their unique reading identity. Collect samples and discuss purpose, and then let students make them their own. Sure we could assign questions or formats, but these self-designed notebooks can give us a lot of information about how kids see themselves as readers, how they reflect or don’t,
‘PHOTO’ ALBUMS – Students use an index card or 4×6 sized paper to recreate the book jacket or create a mini-poster for their book on one side. Flip it over and rate it, review it, summarize it…on the other. They can even write the date they read/finished it. Slip the cards into a $1 4×6 photo album to keep a collection of book memories.
BOOK BUDDIES -If you want to build a reading community that talks about books and their reading lives, build time in your day for kids to do that. One idea is that each morning kids meet with a ‘Book Buddy’ (could be same buddy each day for a week or so or rotates) for 5 or 10 minutes to discuss what they read outside of school or the previous day in school. Readers could mark places in the book or jot ideas they’d like to share. Some suggested sentence stems:
- A summary of my reading last night starts with____ (summarizing)
- Something I think the author did really well was____(attention to craft)
- Something I learned/thought/recognized about my character was____(character analysis)
- I think the setting is integral to the story/plot because______ (setting analysis)
- This book is starting to remind me of____(connection to text, experience, real world)
- Something we’ve been working on as readers that I tried/noticed _______(transfer)
If we want kids to be life-long readers, perhaps we can share approaches that mirror what true life-long readers do. We sometimes document what we’ve read, or share via social media, or talk with others about our reading lives/interests/choices. I’d love to hear some other alternatives to a more traditional reading log that have excited your students and created a greater community of readers!
What’s On My Book Radar?
Jacqueline Woodson has done it again…created a book that will reside in my heart for years to come. We meet August, a young girl who has moved from Tennessee to Brooklyn with her father and brother and becomes ‘sisters’ with three neighborhood girls. As the story unfolds we grow up with August, her brother, and friends and unravel the mystery of her missing mother. If you have ever heard Jackie read her work you will hear this story (which reads more like a poem) with her lyrical voice and passioned prosody in your head. Considered her first adult novel, I think it fits with YA as well. (Some of the topics are more appropriate for older readers.)