- Student accountability for what they were really reading: Even though we regularly share book titles with one another, discuss books, look at book trailers, and call dibs on the next book we want to read from our friend, I found that sometimes students were reluctant to share. Many times it was the voracious readers who clamoured for a few seconds to share a great new find; which is awesome for sparking excitement and a general reading buzz in the room- I love seeing the excitement these students can generate with their enthusiasm, however I wanted to know what the kid who rarely shared was reading... and why. As a mom of
StrugglingDeveloping Readers (thank you, Donalyn Miller for the term), my own kids are often reluctant to share what we read simply because of book level. For a reader who struggles with fluency and/or comprehension, nightly reading can be difficult and daunting. So I can't expect that these same students would turn around and celebrate that in front of their peers.
- A common place for exchange of ideas about reading: I wanted students and I to have an official common place to share tidbits about the books they were reading, progress, ideas, "next read" suggestions and the reading log provided that place. I found that when I reviewed the reading logs over the weekend, I had more time to consider the student and title he/she was reading. I was able to jot down ideas or questions I had in the margins or on the back. It allowed me time to write a note of encouragement or the opportunity to make myself a note that a conference with the student was needed.
The Reality: This truly evolved into my favorite part. Many students would leave little notes about their next read or whether I had read the book myself. I found myself jotting down several titles that I saw popping up a great deal on my own "Must Read" list! But for some, it was just a safe place to leave little messages. "Worst day ever" was written one week on one log. I responded "Oh no! I hate to hear that. What happened?" The student shared with me his parents had given his dog away with no warning. Since this student was the perpetually happy-go-lucky kid who never shared anything negative in his life- I was happy he felt that his reading log was a safe spot to share- even when it had nothing to do with reading.
- An additional way to communicate with parents on the reading lives of their child: I wanted a way to document what a student was reading from their (the student's) perspective, but also a way to use that data for goal-setting, parent meetings, and possible data for RTI meetings. There seemed to be a needed element to realistically put the parents in the mix of the reading lives of my students. I know for me, personally, when my kids were in the lower grades a nightly reading log was expected to be filled in with title, time read, and signature- nightly- no exceptions (at least... in my mind there weren't any); and while there were many a night we were coming in late from some activity or another, me grumbling because we still had to read (GUILTY!)... reading was still seen as a priority. We read even when we were busy, even when we didn't want to, even when we had other things to do. It was expected, so it's what we did. While I realize that I teach a wide variety of students with differing backgrounds and home-lives and not every student will have a parent so involved enough to jot their initials or signature 2 or 3 times a week as a check-in point for their child, it does provide me with 1. knowledge of that and provides an avenue to work with that student on helping him/her in their own goal-setting but 2. allows the reading life of my kids to be shared with their parents and gives us a starting point when discussing the child's progress, fluency, comprehension, etc.
The reality: Yes- I know that sometimes the initial on the reading log is from the student and not the parent. And yes- sometimes there is the student who consistently loses it...EVERY.WEEK... and yes- sometimes I know the information the student is providing isn't really what's going on during independent reading at night... but that's ok. It is still a starting point and provides a foot in the door when brainstorming with parents possible books/strategies we could try. Do they always work? Nope. Are parents always available and involved? Not always. Are there times when I read something on how horrible Reading Logs are and why teachers should NOT do them and wonder what in the world I've done... at times. But all of that is ok. I really feel like the good outweighs the negative; it provides a jumping-off point for figuring out the real reading-lives of my kids, as well as helping me know what they enjoy/like/tend to lean on as far as style/genre, and technically provides an opportunity and expectation that the parent is just as involved and a part of this process as myself and the student.
So while I sometimes find myself on the Reading Log fence looking at both sides, I lean (and usually fall off) on the "like" side... and have some additional ideas for making it even more of a positive experience for next year.