Tuesday, October 2, 2012


M was an early reader. Not to fail to give his preschool and kindergarten teachers credit, but he just seemed to take it up rather magically. In fact, he learned to write when he was four, before he could read, by sounding out words, and shouting to me from the deck where he sat drawing thousands of pictures while I sat inside nursing thousands of babies--okay, maybe it was just two babies, but they may as well have been thousands--"what does an 'h' look like? What makes a "fff" sound? And then one day he was reading. And then second grade came along, with the Reading Log, and suddenly he had to read every day, and that was pretty much the end of me reading to him, until I started to read the Little House books to E and Z and he would listen in (and then he really stuck around when C and I read them the Harry Potter books the first time around).

Ever since, I have thought of it as the Tyranny of the Reading Log, because it not only meant an end of the lovely time reading to my boy, but it was also the beginning of a four-year battle to get him to keep track of his reading. The whole thing always seemed completely stupid to me, because M has never needed external motivation to get him to read. Most of the time, we have to make him stop reading so that he'll sleep or do some other necessary activity. He's always, as a matter of course, read far more than necessary for the log, but he's never once been bothered to check the time before and after he starts reading and writing it down, so every Friday morning it was a struggle and tearful battle to get him to try to remember (or make up) what he read and for how long on which day. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to learn that sixth grade meant no more Reading Log.

And then E and Z, who are now in second grade, brought home Reading Logs. Ahhhhhh!!!

But, here's the thing. They are not natural-born readers. They went into second grade reading at about the same level that M did going into kindergarten. I've been (mostly) totally fine with that, knowing all kids develop at different levels, and that I was a later reader which has in no way affected my life. But, when they started the reading log, they started to get excited about reading. They check the clock before and after they read. They write down their books and their minutes. They have been caught getting up very early in the morning to read more. It turns out that perhaps this kind of external motivation works for them (for now) and is helping them get over whatever reluctance they have shown toward reading in the past. I still wish the teachers could have shown a little more flexibility when putting this requirement before someone who clearly did not need such motivation (page numbers! if they had just let him record page numbers instead of minutes life would have been so much happier). For now I will drop my own bad attitude toward the Reading Log, but I won't let it stop me from reading to my kids this time around.


  1. I have such a hard time with these things, too. I really resent anything that takes away intrinsic motivation and/or emphasizes external rewards (like filling in enough minutes on your reading chart, or getting a "prize" if you are "good" for the whole week in class). But I've also come to realize, having two very different kids, that they really don't all respond the same. So I've calmed down about some of this stuff, a little.

  2. Here, in our house we are experiencing the reading log as you did with M. Aiden was not an early reader, but when he figured it out, he was on it! All summer long, read, read, read. He even stated that reading was his favorite thing to do. Now with the reading log... it's a battle to get him to read. Not just to record it, but to do it! He said, "I don't like being forced to do it!" (Words that I remember hearing myself say at some point in my youth.) He has managed to get his weekly time in each week, but not daily. (He will read 20 minutes one day to make up for missing the previous day, etc). I feel like this reading log has set him back. This week, he got the first Harry Potter book from the library and has been reading while he's supposed to be sleeping (he thinks I don't know ;)). I have no idea how much time he has put in and frankly, I don't really care, he is reading again, without a battle. If at the end of the week he fills in his reading log saying that he has read 10 minutes for the whole week, I will sign it. If he turns in his reading log saying that he has read for 10 hours this week, I will sign it.

  3. If they read -- great. If they're riding bikes or playing games or baking brownies or whatever -- that's great, too. School should be contained to school for as long as possible.


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