Reading Logs: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Happy Thursday, everyone.  Tomorrow is a teacher work day for me...the end of the semester "work on report card" day that I always turn into "clear the piles and dump stuff in the recycling bin while eating copious snacks and drinking caffeinated beverages" day.

Just thought I would follow up on my post the other day about how important I feel it is to take "status of the class" during independent reading.  I love being able to tell you at any time what my students are reading, to reflect back on their reading trends and habits, and to be able to help them work toward their independent reading goals.

Another component of my independent reading program that some--especially if you have read "The Book Whisperer"--might frown upon is the use of student reading logs.  Before you roll your eyes or click to the next person's blog, hear me out.  Have you ever heard "I would NEVER use worksheets!" or other such comments?  Let's be honest...there is a time and a place for MANY things in education, and not all resources and ideas are created equal.  I am pretty confident that some of the materials I present to my students--SOME OF WHICH ARE PHOTOCOPIED PIECES OF PAPER--are pretty decent!  They challenge them...they push their thinking...they provide concrete examples...they provide opportunities for practice.  We all also know that there are "worksheets" out there that do nothing to promote learning or student success.  So--my point is simple.  Yes, there are bad reading logs.  Yes, there are inappropriate ways to use reading logs.  Let me tell you what I do and see if you might not see it my way.

First of all, my students read.  A lot.  Our goal is not to read a certain number of pages or a certain number of minutes, but instead to try to get into what we call...
that state of being lost within a book, that state where Aunt Betty might call you for dinner and you don't even hear here, that state where your eyes are drooping but you just HAVE to find out what happens.  Getting into the reading zone is what prompts deep understanding and deep passion for reading.

To help with this, I spend huge amounts of time helping students work to refine their reading behaviors--selecting "just right" books that are appealing to them, finding smart places to read where they can maintain their focus, noticing when they are losing focus and troubleshooting the reasons why--and so on.  For me, I think having students track their reading at school and at home is one way that they can begin to collect data about their reading habits and behaviors and use that data to make changes when necessary.

My process is simple.  The students write the date, their title (just an arrow if they are continuing the book they were reading earlier), their starting page, and ending page.  They mark "S" for school reading and "H" for home reading.  No parent signatures are involved.  No minutes read.  No rules.  Each day when I take status, the students have their logs out on their desks so if they are busy I can grab their status right off their log.  When I notice something during status (slow progress through a book, rapid progress through a book, frequent abandoning, etc) I might ask a student to study their reading logs to prepare for our conference. These reading log conferences can be so telling.  I hear things like:

"I noticed I haven't been reading at home very much.  My mom isn't reminding me any more and I need to do it myself."

"I read that entire Andrew Clements book in 3 days!  I was totally in the zone...maybe I should try another one of his."

"I have already abandoned 3 books this quarter.  Can you do a 'book shop' with me?" 
(Book shop = time one-on-one with me in our library to create a personalized list or book bin for students struggling with book selection)

At the midway point and end of each quarter, my students sort through their reading logs and do a more thorough study.  They look for patterns.  They look for problems.  They look for improvements.  They count up "H's" and "S's" to see if they are holding up their end of the deal (Our "homework" is that they read at home a minimum of 5 days per week--preferably 7!). They fill out a brief reflection sheet about their progress and set a goal for the next part of the quarter.

So...I understand that reading logs can be a bad thing.  Parents DESPISE having to sign the things regularly and have to badger their kids to do them.  I don't do that.  Students don't like having to write a response to their reading every night (It RUINS the book, Mrs. A!).  I don't do that.  Grading students based on a number of pages or minutes or book titles seems unfair--how you can you compare a beginning reader to a Percy Jackson fanatic?  But for students to have a way to keep track of their reading to become more accountable, reflective, and engaged?  I guess I don't see the problem.  My kids never complain--and they will frequently come up to me with amazing discoveries that they have made.  I'd love to hear what you think!

Looking for more help with getting independent reading started in your class?  Maybe one of these might help you out...


  1. This is an interesting post! We're at the "parents sign" stage (or more aptly forget to sign!) but I kind of like this idea. We do a reading response journal every weekend when there's more time for the kids to reflect and write - doing it every night would be torture! This would make the students accountable for their own reading log ... hmm ...something to think about :)

    Fun in the Fours

    1. Hey there! I gave up on the signing years ago--and once I "sold" it as a tool for the students, I suddenly got lots more support! Kids keep it right in their travel folders and it moves back and forth with them from school to home. Very. Low. Stress.

  2. Very interesting post. I like how you do the reading logs. I have mine track the minutes and get signatures. That is because we have a school-wide program that awards prizes based on minutes read.

    1. Yeah...the signature thing is tough. We did away with prizes for it years ago because we knew families were "exaggerating" and we didn't feel that those kids whose parents were not involved should suffer. It's a dilemma!

  3. I love this perspective!! I can't seem to help some of students find "The Reading Zone"...and this seems like a great approach for them!

    Are you willing to share the log you use and how you approach goal-setting?

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. I'm glad it gave you something to think about! If you have time, read back to a few of my other posts about things I do to help kids find that "Zone". I use a number of different reading logs--in my TpT there is a set of them for sale but also one for free called "Reading Log: Stamina Edition" . . . and it might be exactly what you need! Check it out and see. Let me know your thoughts.

  4. These are different from my reading logs, but I like them for the conversations they inspire with your students! And I agree with you on a few things, like the parent's signature. That was just not useful for anyone involved (I did it my first couple years of teaching).

  5. I think this is great! This is excatly the kind of thing I was looking for when I typed "using reading logs with students" into google! I'm glad I found your blog. It is so important to put students in the drivers seat of their reading, and having them analyze their data is important! I love the goal setting and the "I notice". Do you have any of these documents to share? Just so I can see how you've done it... I can make my own. :)

    Also- why are the reading logs different colors? Is that a way you differentiate?

    1. I just vary the colors so they are easier to track and sequence when we study several of them...easy on my brain!