It seems that every year when back-to-school season rolls around, the "death to the reading log" posts start making their way online. The main argument from the parents urging the reading log's demise is that forcing kids to track nightly reading destroys an innate love of reading. Additionally, the logs have been called a sham because some parents make the decision not to require their children to read each night and, as a result, falsify the reading log.
My daughter, Sophie, started second grade, and sure enough, the reading log was in her homework folder. This was not a new requirement, as we've had our share of reading logs the last few years of elementary school. Each night, Sophie is required to read at home and I initial next to the book or chapter she read. I view this nightly reading requirement as part of her homework routine.
So as we get our kids back into their school schedules, here are some thoughts that address the negativity surrounding the reading log.
First, let's look at the claim that forcing kids to read will destroy an innate love of books and turn our sons and daughters into clock-watchers. I think most parents would agree that when kids are forced to do anything, they will likely revolt. So while they may not enjoy being "forced" to read for a timed period, they are rebelling against the fact that they're being told what to do -- not the reading itself.
It's also important to remember that not every child has an innate love of reading. The reading logs are especially important for those kids who do not opt to read on their own, yet still need nightly practice. In this circumstance, the log can be a helpful tool for parents to get a daily glimpse into their student's reading life and track their progress.
The behavior of not wanting to do what's being forced is not unique to kids, either. How many of us enjoy doing something, but when required to perform the action, scoff at completing it? I may enjoy exercising, but when I'm told to complete 20 minutes on the treadmill, guess who is staring at the clock the entire time, waiting for the minutes to tick by?
Second, the fact is that nightly reading is required homework, just like the math sheets and other assigned projects. Homework isn't fun, but it's required and students are expected to have it done when they enter the classroom each day. Do parents tell their kids they don't have to turn in the other homework assignments? I'm guessing not. So why is it OK not to do the reading?
Third, and the issue I find most disturbing, is that many individuals who don't agree with the daily reading log practice admit to falsely initialing the logs, even if the child has not read that day, or completed the required period of time. This action goes beyond simply disagreeing with the reading log practice; it's essentially teaching kids that dishonesty is OK.
If parents are truly against this requirement and don't want to record entries, they should simply not do it and inform the teacher of that decision. Will the child's grade suffer because he is not doing the required homework? Perhaps. And on that note, parents need to be ready to take responsibility for any grade drop that happens because of the decision.
I'm sure we can all agree that parenting is a tough (and often thankless) job. No mom or dad wants to hear their kid complain about homework -- or being forced to do something they don't want to do -- every night. So perhaps use this assignment as a tool to teach kids about time management and responsibility, and a way to let them practice the work they learned in school.
Better yet, make the required reading a time during which parents and their children read together -- either by reading a different book yourself at the same time, or reading aloud from a chapter book to your kid. This type of activity not only promotes reading (and fulfills the homework requirement), but is also an opportunity for parents and kids to bond over books.
The most important thing, however, is to understand that the log is not designed as a torture device. It's a teaching tool to -- quite simply -- help kids read.