Ditch the Reading Log

kids-dont-need-reading-logsI regret assigning reading logs as a teacher.  

Confession time: As a beginning teacher, I used to complain about students not reading at home.  What are their parents doing?  Why don’t these kids read?  I assigned 20 minutes of independent reading a night.  Most teachers in my school did.  I asked my students to complete a nightly reading log to keep them accountable.  After the 20 minutes commenced, students would simply need to jot down the book they read and what page they stopped on in their reading log.  Oh wait, I thought, these are fifth graders. They might just write down a random page number and call it complete.  So, I required them to write a one-sentence summary as well.  And the parents had to sign off on their nightly reading. 

 A recent study by Scholastic found that fewer children are reading for fun these days.  In fact, out of the kids in the study, only 31% of kids say they have ever read a book for fun.  I think that’s sad.  Research shows that the more kids read, the better they do in school.  That’s the theory behind the reading log assignments.  However, a study by Princeton University found that when kids are forced to use a reading log, overall interest in reading and motivation to read declines.

I remember vividly detesting reading logs as a kid.  I was a big reader as a child.  After school, I would grab my Nancy Drew book, find a spot in the playground tunnel with my friends and we would read until our parents picked us up.  I devoured books.  Each summer, I would get so excited when the summer reading program rolled around.  Prizes for reading!!  Yes, I already do that anyway!  Easy.  I never got a single prize during the summer reading program because I could never remember to fill out that blasted log.  Filling out a reading log did not encourage me to read more.  When I observed the reluctant readers in my classroom, the accountability of the reading log never encouraged a single child to read more than they wanted.  Reading logs didn’t help any kind of reader. The truth is simple.

If a child loves reading, she will read.  If a child dislikes reading, she won’t. 

We can use other strategies to encourage reading that are so much more effective than a reading log – both at home and at school.  To encourage kids to read more, we as parents and teachers can do two simple things:

Let kids choose their own reading material

What if they say they don’t like any book?  It doesn’t mean they will never love reading, it just shows that they haven’t discovered the allure yet.  Ask yourself: what does the child like to do in his free time?  What do they always talk about?  That will be a huge clue into what they might like to read about.  Then, enlist the help of a school or children’s librarian to get recommendations.  Start trying lots and lots of books.  Some may stick. Some may not.

Read aloud

No matter the age, hearing a story read aloud is always enjoyable.  I love going to author visits through Changing Hands and hearing an author read aloud her own work.  Kids love listening to adults read.  It’s also very low risk for them because there is no possibility of failing due to reading strength.  It is just an enjoyable way to listen to a story.  

In this age of standardized tests and teachers forced to cram in more subject material than there is time to teach it, free reading time is usually the first thing cut.  There is just not enough time in the school day. This means it has to happen outside of the classroom.  I always read right before I fell asleep because I enjoy it and it relaxes me.  My daughter is starting to read before bed as well.  Plus, she has the extra incentive of being able to stay up later if she is reading.   

There will be no reading log in my classroom when I go back as a teacher.  I now see that they cause more pain than reward. Reading should be a wonderful experience, not a horrible chore.  




JoAnn Crohn

CEO/Founder at No Guilt Mom
JoAnn Crohn, M. Ed is a parenting educator and life coach who helps moms feel confident in raising empowered, self-sufficient kid while pursuing their own goals & passions.

She’s an accomplished writer, author, podcast host of the No Guilt Mom podcast, and speaker who appears in national media. Work with her personally in Balance VIP

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  1. Awesome article! You have a great perspective on this topic. I loved reading as a kid too, and I definitely hope to encourage my students to enjoy it.

  2. I agree! As a parent I’ve been blessed with children who love to read, but we’ve also never had to force them. Those darn reading logs are the hardest thing for me to remember to fill out! Luckily my daughter’s teacher hasn’t been pushing them too much the past couple of months – and we still read *almost* every night before bed. 🙂

    1. My first thought when I read your comment was that your daughter’s teacher probably isn’t pushing them because no one else is doing them either 🙂 That was frequently my approach to home reading logs. The picture at the top of the post is my daughter’s reading log. I had her dig it out of her backpack and pretend to fill it out so I could take a picture 🙂

  3. I really do agree with this. The way the schools have done reading the past years has not helped my children develop a love for reading. It is really sad!

    1. It is! I found as a teacher, the best way I cultivated a love of reading in my students was to read aloud daily from a novel. I taught fifth grade, and because of the daily read aloud, so many students became hooked on The Lightning Thief series as well as Among the Hidden.

  4. Great advice! I taught a program called Read 180 to remedial readers and it wasn’t that they couldn’t read because they all could they just had never been taught to read properly and didn’t know why it was so entertaining. But after having me read aloud to them and change my voice and I would have them close their eyes and picture a movie in their minds and then let them pick out anything they wanted to read that they found interesting every single child had a drastic improvement in their reading skills. So many people don’t understand the importance of good reading skills and just how enjoyable it can be. My kiddo at 15 loves to read and shockingly is one of 3 kids in her freshman class that has read a novel on her own for fun (she’s read more than that but you get my point ;)) Pretty shocking.

    1. I taught Read 180 as well Kate! I honestly loved the program because it put such a huge emphasis on the importance of student choice, interest and engagement. That is crazy that she is the only one who has read a novel for fun!

  5. Couldn’t agree more! The love of reading is so important in young ones and I definitely did not read for the prizes when I was younger… Perhaps one small pizza from Pizza Hut? 🙂 Instead my mother let us peruse the book aisle at Goodwill and bring home new treasures to read monthly! Now I have The Babysitter’s Club and other sets(not quite full sets, but still) to pass on to my little ones! Love that you will banish the reading log when you are back in the classroom!

  6. A great piece! As an educator and school administrator I have had similar conversations with parents about this exact topic. While the ‘reading log’ can be a useful tool, it often became a source of contention with parents and students. Instilling a love of reading entails so much more than keeping a list of what is read or knowing what your ‘just right’ book is. Learning what genre and style you want to read is just as important and something that is often lost in the myriad of reading skills we emphasize with our children and students.

    [Visiting from the #blogger52project :-)]

  7. I guess I can (kind-of) see the point of reading logs. Personally, I am HORRIBLE about filling them out for my daughters. So horrible that I have seen my forged initials on my daughters log after I (repeatedly) forget to sign them and send them back. It is just sooooo stupid when your kids are already big readers! Thanks for sharing! Stopping in from #Blogger52 project! 🙂

  8. I feel this same way. We have never, never completed any portion of our library’s summer reading program, but it’s just because a reading log is totally the opposite of what pleasurable reading is. My kids love to read (they read so much we actually have to limit their reading time so they’ll do things like eat and go outside) but we all hate reading logs. Maybe they work for some kids, but I feel like it’s a colossal waste of time for mine.

  9. I guess it depends on the intent, in my mind. In my class, students track their reading on reading logs because we use it to study their reading patterns, talk about pacing, finishing books vs abandoning them, and so on. Students record their school reading and home reading and write reflections on occasion about themselves as readers. The logs are never signed by parents–it is a student-centered thing that allows them to trace their reading habits and behaviors and to have a wonderful record of all they have read throughout the year. I guess I always worry a little when we make sweeping statements like “reading logs are terrible” or “worksheets are bad” without looking fully at the context they are being used. Just my two cents!

    1. Hi! I understand that reading logs do have benefits. In fact, those benefits that you described I used to defend the use of reading logs in my classroom. I was really influenced by Fountas and Pinnell’s book on Guiding Readers and Writers as well as Lucy Calkins’ book on the The Art of Teaching Reading. However, my main concern is reading motivation. Through my experience and research I believe there more organic ways to talk about reading patterns than charting books in a reading log. Reader talks, book recommendations, reader’s notebooks and finding books that kids connect with are all ways to achieve these goals without needing a log.

      When I used reading logs in my classroom, I saw student’s interest in reading diminish because they didn’t want to log it.

      1. Hi ! I had 14 boys in my second grade reading class to motivate, instill the love of reading as well as teach reading strategies by the end of the school year. I read aloud daily, and allowed them to choose their books from the classroom and school library. I didn’t assign reading logs, because our admins discourage the use of paper in our school, and I didn’t want paper piles in my room to organize or read. Also, they had an hour in class each day during our guided reading time to read a book they were enjoying. Throughout the year I observed non-readers become daily readers, they began to bring books from home to read in class, was excited to share their books with peers, they began to ask me to obtain more specific books they enjoyed reading, and more importantly they were encouraged by their peers to read specific genres or books. I was pleased and warmed. Teresa

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