Who came up with the idea of reading logs? I’d like to know, because I’d like to tell that person what he or she can do with their joy killer. What were they thinking? And how did they go about marketing the idea to schools and teachers so effectively that there may not be a single classroom below the high school level in the United States of America that doesn’t utilize reading logs nowadays?
Reading logs weren’t around when I was a kid, I can tell you that – and they probably weren’t around when you were growing up, either, were they? Sure, we had required reading, and we had to write essays and book reports analyzing themes and characters and underlying meanings of some of the things we read. And that was good – that got us stretching ourselves and reading some material we may not have otherwise read, and it got us thinking, and it got us writing – all important muscles to flex.
Despite not growing up with forced daily reading and reading logs, however, past generations still managed to produce lovers of literature, as evidenced by the millions of book clubs across America. I never had to fill out a reading log – ever! – and I ADORE reading. I devour books like crazy, and I’ve been in a wonderful book club for ten years! And nobody ever forced me to read or to provide an accounting of my reading. Imagine that!
There is so much wrong with reading logs and everything they’re based on.
First of all, I am a firm believer that you cannot force a kid to love reading – especially not by forcing him or her to read. Reading is a skill that every child needs to become proficient at, but not every kid is going to exceed at reading or adore reading. Like any other activity – swimming, cooking, playing piano – whatever – some kids are born with a natural affinity for it and a natural aptitude for it, and some are not. Reading should absolutely be encouraged – parents should read to their kids from the time they’re babes, and books – lot of books – should be made available to kids. But a love of reading just cannot be manufactured. A kid who does love to read is going to look for opportunities to read whenever possible – there is no need to force it. And kids who do not love to read are going to grow to truly resent reading if it’s forced on them – and worse, if they are forced to account for their reading.
What is the point of reading logs, anyway? Teachers want kids to read – I get that. But a reading log says, “I don’t trust you to read, so you must prove to me that you actually read for the prescribed number of minutes by writing down what you read and for how long you read. And even then, I won’t take your word for it, so have your mom or dad sign the reading log as a witness that you actually did said reading, because you cannot be trusted.”
And frankly, I resent being expected to sign these silly logs. Take my kid’s word for it, okay? Is she doing okay in class with reading materials? If so, then leave her alone with the stupid reading logs. If she’s struggling with reading, can’t we come up with a better plan of action to get her reading than demanding that she read for twenty or thirty or however many minutes per day and then provide an accounting of it?
Here’s what reading logs actually do: they turn reading into a chore. They teach kids that time spent matters more than content or understanding of content. Reading logs tell kids that they are untrustworthy and must continually prove themselves. They send the message that kids cannot be independent learners – they must rely on Mom and Dad to back them up.
This is not learning – it’s obedience.