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Do You Require “Reading Logs” For Homework?

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A blog post titled “I Hate Reading Logs,” says FedUp Mom has been making the rounds on Twitter (thanks to Dawn Morris for the tip).  In it, a mother speaks strongly against the idea of signing-off on her child’s reading each night.

Pretty much the only homework that I require in my classes that is actually done at “home” (I always provide classtime for other “homework”) is that students read a book — any book — for at least thirty minutes, four nights each week. They can write down the title of the book in their school-supplied calendar or even just on a sheet of paper if they don’t have their planner. Then parents have to sign-it — that’s it — the title of the book and the parent signature.   I check the “log” each Friday.  I think the parent signature helps a bit for accountability.

I figure that this minimal requirement is not too onerous, and that students who are readers already probably do this amount of reading on their own, and that it gives those who are not readers enough of a push that they might be pleasantly surpised they like it.

What’s your perspective on this?  Do I think I should do something differently?

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

13 Comments

  1. I require reading – but I do not have a logbook or anything similar. My techniques is to have frequent discussions about what ‘we’ are reading now. I usually start, then go around the room asking what book they are currently reading – reinforcing the point that it is normal to be always reading a book.

    I do not make any kind of point re the non readers – if I get a “not reading anything now” – I just move to the next student.

    I find this works quite well.

  2. Hi Larry,

    Like you, I only assign reading for homework (until they get to IB English in Grades 11 & 12, that is).

    I wouldn’t change anything, but if an individual parent objected I would make an exception for him or her.

    I don’t require parent signatures in Grades 9 & 10. Instead students write a brief journal entry about their book on the class blog. You can check my entire “Independent Reading” strategy here:

    http://ericmacknight.com/wordpress/?page_id=114

    and see some current examples of my Grade 9 journal entries here:

    http://www.EricMacKnight.com/myp9a

    Eric

  3. As a third grade, ESL teacher, I do have reading logs. For most of my students, it is a way that I can remind parents that the kids need to be reading at home.

    I don’t grade them (I don’t feel like I can grade any homework because of some of the home life situations of several of my students) but I do offer rewards. I have also just set a time goal, not a page goal.

    If someone can tell me another way to get parents to help their children at home, I’m all for it…but until then, I will keep using reading logs.

  4. I used to require reading logs with signatures everynight. I stopped requiring signatures because parents were signing in the first box and drawing a line to the bottom of the page. I realized it was too much to ask a parent to sign their ENTIRE NAME EVERY NIGHT! What a hassle. I still have the reading requirement but now I have students journal for 50-100 words on what they read. Its all done online on their wiki pages. It works great.

  5. Larry, I’m putting my reading logs on hold this year and trying something new. The reading logs were fun for some students because they offered choice (100 minutes per week) and each week I’d hold a raffle with the logs that were turned in.

    Unfortunately, it just added to paperwork and I didn’t feel it was anything but a monitoring system that, ultimately, parents should be responsible for.

    So now I’m going to send home a few short stories each week and have students practice specific reading strategies. They’ll record their thoughts as they read in a “Reader’s Journal” and they’ll fold one page over that they want me to read and respond to. That, at least, would be an assessment I could use.

  6. Unfortunately, too many parents are happy to lie for their kids and sign the logs whether the reading was done or not, so I don’t use them. Instead, I have students do some writing in class about what they read. Examples: explain 3 gifts you would give the main character (no money), write an advice letter to one of the characters, design a t-shirt one of the characters would wear and explain your design. It’s much more interesting than a book report, I get to see if the reading is actually being done, and the kids learn I’m serious about their reading, since I do grade this in-class work.

    In the grand scheme of things, finding students something they actually want to read is the most important, because then they’ll read it…

  7. I think reading logs and AR are a drag on readers and hold them back because it turns reading into a chore.

    For non-readers I think reading logs turn them into liars and AR into cheaters because it often limits their choices. I was thinking about this this week because of a science project we did.

    The students designed animals with adaptations that would make the animals indestructible. The adaptations from my “nonreaders” were straight from science fiction and comics. But they can’t take their AR tests over these types of books because there are no tests available on our campus be cause of the high reading level (we are elementary). I also had to take a comic book back from an aide to return to a student. I pointed out that the reading level and vocabulary of that “trash” (aide’s description) were much higher level that the sacred AR book the student was avoiding.

    I would rather find good books for the nonreaders than prod them with reading logs they are going to sign without reading.

  8. I’m new to Language Arts, (7th grade students) and although I know many parents may just sign without knowing/caring if the students read, I think it’s important the kids read every night, something they like…I also allow them to read a magazine or website as well (not all have access to books at home). Next month I’ll start having them create some kind of project about what they are reading. Once a week I also tie their homework to their reading (write down 10 prepositional phrases you found in your reading, etc) and obviously I can tell who just made up the sentences and who got them from a book/magazine/website. We will have discussions over the year about being honest with your log, letting them read a magazine or website as well, and also we talk about how much their intelligence increases if they actually do read 30 min. a day vs. watch TV. In my present class, I think the majority do read. I collect it at the end of each week and just eyeball it to make sure it looks legit. Maybe I’ll change my tune by the end of the year, but I’m still positive and like them!

  9. I use reading logs in much the same way you do for my remedial reading classes; however, I bypass the parent signature. I put very little weight on this assignment so that it has no real effect on the overall grade in class except to help those who actually read on a nightly basis. I have found that those students who actually read more at home tend to show more growth by the end of the year… Could be because the skills taught inside the classroom tend to overflow into their reading at home which then makes it more of an independent process???…

  10. As Daniel Willingham demonstrates in his outstanding book, “Why Don’t Students Like School?”, background knowledge is the #1 factor in student success, and reading is far and away the best method for expanding background knowledge.

    So to those tempted to stop requiring their students to read daily, I would say, “Don’t stop!” And once again here is my own approach to independent reading, which I’ve been using with success for many years, just in case it proves useful to others:

    http://ericmacknight.com/wordpress/?page_id=114

    Eric

  11. After assigning reading logs for over ten years, I stopped two years ago. There was a core group of students who turned them in religiously; typically the stronger/motivated readers. Conversely, there was a core group who never turned them in; typically the weaker/unmotivated students.

    I’ve concluded that by 6th grade students and parents have some level of understanding that reading at home is valuable. Students have heard a zillion times it’ll make them stronger readers. Parents have heard the same, plus some.

    I agree with Ms. D. It’s the parent’s responsibility.

    What I do is inform parents, during Curriculum Night, that kids should be reading at home, and we all know the reasons why. I add that I desperately want them reading at home, but have concluded my sphere of influence isn’t powerful enough to compete with kids who don’t desire to, and parents unwilling to compel them.

    I conclude by telling parents that at-home reading isn’t just books. I’m fine with magazines, blogs, etc. The point is any active engagement with text is beneficial.

  12. In my 7th grade language arts class, students have a Weekly Independent Reading Record due each Monday. (This is a worksheet that I have created that asks for the page numbers and start & end time as well as what I call a ‘one sentence summary’ each time they read.) Reading logs are 5% of a student’s total average, so as to not horribly penalize those who don’t do it, but still give a nod to those that do. Students are required to read either 200 or 150 minutes per week (I make a student by student decision depending on various factors – the students & parents also have a voice in this.) This year, I started offering up to 110% extra credit on minutes past their requirement to further encourage the strong readers & motivated students.
    Like many have indicated here, I am a firm believer in student choice: students are allowed to choose nonfiction, newspaper articles, bios on their favorite rap artist, etc. However, unlike Kimberly, for me items like comic strips and graphic novels are not allowed to count. Standardized testing assesses paragraphs of text, so that’s what I require. Also a student choice is how to divide the time required. (30 minutes a night for five nights, 2 1/2 hours of reading all on Sunday afternoon, etc.) It’s just due by Monday. =)
    An ADULT required to sign off verifying that the student was indeed reading each time; for me that does NOT have to be a parent. (For example, in our schedule students have 20 minutes of free study time daily where a teacher could sign off.) I emphasize students should ask for a signature at the time s/he reads, NOT a whole week at a time, but there’s no real way to verify that. While I agree with many here that there are parents who will (and do) falsely sign off, there are also kids who will Cliff Notes the book report. Copy the math homework. Buy their results with a fancy board in the science fair…and so on. We can only own so much of all that as teachers. Besides, if their parent will teach their child to compromise their integrity over 5% of a 7th grade language arts class, then they have bigger problems in life than any teacher in 180 days that year is going to fix – with or without a reading log.

  13. Hi:

    Well, I have mixed feelings about Reading Logs (and also about Vocabulary Cards!) I have two kids 10 and 12 and I do think a lot of time is spent creating those. I was so fed up with lost or misplaced Vocab Cards (and having to create a duplicate one at 6.30 AM prior to school), finally I set up a google app for my children. Then their friends wanted to use the same. After 2 years, it has evolved into a website (free).

    http://www.readinglogs.com is a free site that lets students create readinglogs and vocabulary cards online and submit them to their teachers online (no paper required). Items do not get
    lost. Hopefully this site can help!

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