Why I Hate Reading Logs

by Christine Organ
Originally Published: 

Mornings during the school year usually involve a certain amount of chaos. This is just par for the course, I suppose, because even though the school bell doesn’t ring until 9 a.m., there’s always a frantic rush to get the kids out the door. This morning was no different. I had to roust my younger son, the late sleeper in the family, 10 minutes before they had to be out the door, which meant scarfing down an Eggo and hastily brushing his teeth.

And then there was the forgotten reading chart to complete .

Words can’t express how much I hate — no, loathe — reading charts.

Neither one of my kids are what I would call voracious readers, but still, they do read. They read in snippets after school while they are waiting for their neighbor friends to finish their homework. They read while we are driving to church on a Sunday morning. And they read in bed before falling asleep.

The trouble is, none of us are particularly good at keeping track of when they read. After all, who keeps a timer going while reading and then likes to write down the number of minutes? No one. At least, no one in our house.

So, what is typically an enjoyable and educational activity turns into a burdensome chore that usually involves a lot of nagging (me) and tears (theirs). Instead of getting lost in a good book, they are watching the clock, waiting for it to be over. Instead of reading for pleasure, they are reading to check off a school obligation. And instead of relishing the time they spend engrossed in a good book, I end up nagging them to keep track on their reading log or feeling guilty for forgetting about the reading log entirely.

Look, I understand the good intentions behind homework assignments like reading logs. Teachers want to promote good reading habits, so they set daily reading quotas. But all too often, the good intentions associated with reading logs backfire, turning what should be an enjoyable learning activity into a burdensome obligation.

And it isn’t just my family either. Plenty of research shows that external controls – like reading logs — weaken internal interest in the activity. In fact, according to The Atlantic, a study published a few years ago in the Journal of Research in Education found that reading logs can have a detrimental effect on students’ interest in and attitudes toward reading.

That seems to be the case in our house.

“When reading is portrayed as something one has to be forced to do,” the authors wrote, “students may draw the conclusion that it is not the kind of activity they want to engage in when given free time.”

Last year, we kept up with the monthly reading logs, with a fair amount of cajoling and nagging, until about halfway through the school year when I threw my hands up in surrender. Because my kids read in bed, time didn’t get recorded and before we knew it, several days would go by without completing the chart. To keep up with expectations, my kids and I would make our best “guess” as to which days they read and for how long, but let’s be honest, this activity wasn’t exactly accurate.

Before long, I began to feel like this effort was reinforcing dishonesty. And if I was letting them “fudge” information for the sake of turning in an assignment, what kind of message was I sending them? It felt icky, so we scrapped the whole thing.

Neither of my sons’ teachers seemed to notice that they weren’t turning the reading logs in, which leads me to believe that even teachers might not care that much about them. In fact, there is a growing contingent of teachers who don’t use reading logs at all.

As for this year, well, time will tell. We’re one week into the reading logs this school year, and I’m trying to keep an open mind. Who knows, maybe they will actually encourage my kids to read more? Maybe this will be the motivation they need.

Oh, who am I kidding?

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