August 26, 2018
Renoir 1880 Young woman reading a journal. Image in Public Domain.
I’ve been part of a book club for almost 18 years. Every month I look forward to sharing what I liked or didn’t like about the selected book with my fellow “Bookies” and listening to and enjoying their perspectives. Recently I tried to recall the title/author of a YA novel we had read a few years ago. I wanted to recommend it to a friend. Dang! I wish I had been keeping a reading log.
Reading by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images
Today I did a little research on the value of having students keep reading logs. Only minutes into my search, I could see that reading logs are a contentious issue in the K-12 community. The awesome Pernille Rip posted three years ago On Reading Logs, discussing both the pros and cons and giving five tips, with Keep it in class and Stop rewarding at the top.
The reason I am proposing reading logs is because I see them as a much better option than requiring students to use computer-based programs to track, rate, reward and/or restrict their reading. Although these programs can help students find books at their current reading level, reading levels are flexible. Too often reading levels are used to limit student choice and to impose forced point quotas, two steps guaranteed to kill the love of reading. If your school is still supporting these online programs, I highly recommend reading Pernille’s After Accelerated Reader and Donalyn Miller’s (AKA “the Book Whisperer”) How to Accelerate a Reader.
In line with Pernille’s tips, the purpose of the reading log would be to provide students with a place to keep track of what they have been reading and to become mindful of their own reading habits. The reading log would also provide teachers with a window into their students’ choices and interests.
The reading log would not require students to log hours/minutes or number of pages read. It would not require nightly parent signatures. I’m going with a Google Spreadsheet (inspired by the amazing Alice Keeler). Here’s a link to my first draft for a Student Reading Log (which could easily be shared with students via Google Classroom). I would love any feedback or questions you might have!
P.S. My book club is reading Barbara Shapiro’s The Art Forger this month. And, yes, I am going to start logging our books!
Photo by Tim Geers on Foter.com / CC BY-SA
February 6, 2010
I promise this will be my last rant on the widely popular Accelerated Reader program, but I feel the need to share an essay posted last summer to the New York Times. Author Susan Straight’s “Reading by Numbers” gives a parent’s perspective on the negative impact this “reading management” software that reduces reading to a system of points and rewards based on multiple-choice online quizzes can have on young readers, even when they are growing up in what I assume is a highly literate home environment.
Librarians and teachers report that students will almost always refuse to read a book not on the Accelerated Reader list, because they won’t receive points. They base their reading choices not on something they think looks interesting, but by how many points they will get. The passion and serendipity of choosing a book at the library based on the subject or the cover or the first page is nearly gone, as well as the excitement of reading a book simply for pleasure.”
I can’t help wondering about the 8th grade language arts teacher Susan Straight references in the first paragraph, who announced at back-to-school night that she “refused to use the program.” Did her administrators and English department colleagues know about her refusal? If so, were conversations about the impact of AR on nurturing “a lifelong love of reading and learning” happening? Were parents joining in the conversation?
Or was this teacher the lone dissenter at her site? I hope not.
I know that districts tend to value programs they have to pay for (an observation shared by NCTE colleague and mentor Allen Webb) and that given all that teachers have on their plates already, it’s understandable to like a program that can be reduced to automated scoring. So depending on the climate and culture of a site or district, taking a stand on AR could get messy.
If you or any of your colleagues are looking for some support, I recommend reading the comments posted to:
As always, your comments are welcomed!