I have a love-hate relationship with reading charts. And by that, I mean that I love the reading part. I hate the chart part.
In my experience, reading charts and logs typically turn reading — an enjoyable experience — into an annoying chore. There’s nagging. There’s stressing. There’s a lot of guesswork about what was read when because who likes to actually keep track of the time spent reading when they are caught up in a good book.
Nonetheless, I understand the rationale behind them. Teachers want to encourage reading at home, and reading logs are an easy way to do that. Reading logs can also promote accountability. I suppose.
I recently wrote about my love-hate — okay, hate-hate — of reading logs, and a teacher shared an ingenious idea in the comments section.
Unlike most reading logs, there are no requirements on the type of book to read. Readers don’t have to keep track of time or write down the book title. The only requirement? To read — anything!
There is a list of interesting and fun reading opportunities, and kids check them off as they are completed. For instance, kids can read a comic book or a newspaper article, read in the bathtub or listen to an audiobook, read to a family pet or to a neighbor.
The unique reading log was the brainchild of Ekuwah Moses, an educator and learning strategist, literacy specialist, and performance zone instructional coach from Las Vegas. The alternative reading log was developed when she was working with an elementary school principal who was adamant about implementing a new “no homework” policy schoolwide.
Given that research suggests reading is the best assignment to increase the academic achievement for elementary students, the principal asked Moses to develop an open-ended and family-friendly homework reading “log” that could be used in all grade levels.
In collaboration with the school’s principal, Moses developed a reading log that includes a number of real-life and unique options for kids to read. And unlike most reading logs, it doesn’t ask kids (or more likely their parents) to track the number of minutes read or number of books read, nor does it ask students to list the author or titles.
Additionally, Moses told Scary Mommy that teachers were specifically instructed not to offer rewards for completion or collecting the most tallies.
The response to the alternative reading log was, in a word, unbelievable. Parents said that the flexibility of the “menu” of options helped when juggling a hectic schedule, and teachers remarked on the positive feedback they were getting on the reading logs themselves.
“Children love the ideas and active involvement of their parents,” Moses told us. “I have had several children pick ideas like reading in the bathtub, reading with a flashlight, and reading with a family pet.” But she said the responses that stick out the most to her are when children say they are thankful for the opportunity to read with their parent.
Shannon Griffin, a second-grade teacher from California who uses the reading log, told us she started using the reading log last year after she got “sick and tired” of the standard weekly reading logs she had been using. After searching the internet, she found Moses’s alternate reading log and fell in love with it.
“I loved the variety and thought it might get the students excited about reading at home, instead of looking at it as a chore,” she told us. “I’m a mom too and have struggled with getting my son interested in reading, so I know the struggle.” She said she’s received a number of positive comments from parents. Not only does it encourage kids to read in unique ways, but she said it also solves for the lack of access to books at home which can be a problem for some students.
“The students say they enjoy it and love to share the different ways they read during the week, such as reading to their stuffed animals, playing Scrabble, reading comic books, reading menus at restaurants, reading signs while driving in the car, reading with a flashlight, etc.,” she said. “I want them to see that reading is everywhere and doesn’t have to be a chore. It definitely excites them to hear that they actually read so much more than they even realize.”
Moses told us she believes the simplicity of the alternate reading log promotes reading as well. “We are simply listing habits of lifelong readers and providing a choice. Lifelong readers do not read for prizes, count pages, or write titles of books. Rather, readers who read for pleasure enjoy reading on the go, select a variety of materials, enjoy sharing or comparing thoughts with others, and are always on the hunt for the next thrill.”
Not only has the alternate reading log motivated kids to read more, it also seems to have removed “parental nagging” from the equation. Moses also conducts a workshop titled “100 Ways to Raise a Reader,” which has been presented at more than 120 schools, helping parents enable their children to be readers. Based on feedback from the workshops, she said parents are finding their children are more eager to read without prompting. Moses found this to be true with her own son too.
“My son, who is not an avid reader, shocked me by choosing to read in the car and then continued reading at the doctor’s office,” she told us. “Without my usual prompting, he chose to read something he enjoyed and sustained his reading much longer than the typical ‘required’ minutes.”
What’s more, Moses said, the benefits of literacy affect generations to come. By encouraging families to read aloud to their children in the language that they feel most comfortable, she said many families who have felt silenced in the past due to fear of negatively impacting their child’s academic growth are now more actively engaged in their kids’ reading.
“One Spanish-speaking mother left our workshop, grabbed a handful of books written in Spanish, and shared them with her husband,” Moses said. “She emailed a photo of her husband reading with their third- and fourth-grade boys for the first time. He had never read to them before and now felt safe to share a love of literacy.”
Kudos to Moses for her ingenuity and to the teachers stepping outside the box to promote literacy. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to print out a few of Moses’s alternate reading logs for my own kids — and maybe even one for myself too.
A printable version of the reading log is available in English and Spanish here.
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