Recently we have been hearing from teachers about their concerns over the effectiveness of book logs. Teachers are finding that they constantly have to remind students to record their reading. These conversations pushed us to think about the purpose of the book log and about how we use logs in our daily lives. Students need to understand why they are logging their reading and how it is going to help them as readers. If students do not understand the purpose of the log, they may view it as laborious or a waste of their time. In order to use the log well we need to adjust it to meet the needs and goals of the reader. Once we make this shift, we find students are not only recording, but also setting goals based on the data collected in their logs.
Using Logs in Our Lives
Clare is an avid runner. Often, she shares her running log to demonstrate how it supports her training. If you are planning to train for a long distance run, all you have to do is Google the topic to find training schedules and logs that you can download. Logs not only help you document the miles you run and your time — they also help you set goals, adjust your training, and plan upcoming weeks.
If you are training for a marathon, it is helpful to begin logging several months before the race. Each week you reflect on how you did and then set goals for the next week. Maintaining your mileage and speed ensures a good race day. Other times, you may reflect in your running log and notice that you have not been running enough hills or finding enough days to run. You can then adjust your schedule to include different types of runs necessary for your training, or look at your calendar and make a plan to fit running into your week.
Just like running, book logs can help readers notice when they are not reading enough, when they are abandoning too many books, when they are not reading enough different types of texts, and when they are not meeting their goals. It is not enough to have students record titles and page numbers without a specific goal is mind. Readers need to look at their logs, reflect on what they have been reading, and adjust their reading to help meet specific learning goals.
When talking to students about book logs, we begin by sharing our own logs and some samples of logs that students have used in the past. In order to empower the students, we show them very simple ways to make personal book logs in their reading notebooks that help them track their progress in reading, set goals, and celebrate their successes. When students either select their own book logs or actually create them, they have more ownership over the reading process and can use the data to reflect on their own growth.
Using Book Logs to Set Goals to Build Stamina
An important goal for many readers is to build their reading stamina. Students may need to build stamina by focusing more attention on the text they are reading during reading time, or they may need to simply increase the amount of reading they do each day.
We encourage students who want to build their stamina to design or choose a book log that helps them record the number of minutes read or the number of pages read each day. When students keep data on pages read or minutes spent reading over the course of a month, they monitor their own progress. This type of log can be brought back and forth between home and school. When children look over the log at the end of the month, the data will help them to recognize what they have accomplished, find new areas for learning, and set new goals.
Using Book Logs to Set Goals for Reading Different Genres
For some readers, stamina is not an issue, but choosing texts in a variety of genres is challenging. Perhaps they are continually reading realistic fiction and avoiding biographies or informational articles. Other readers rarely explore poetry, yet spend a great deal of time reading fantasy. We encourage these readers to design or choose a book log that helps them keep track of the genres they read. As children look over the types of books they have read for the month, they notice what genres they are avoiding and choose new genres to explore.
Strategies for Teachers to Help Keep Reading Logs Alive and Important in the Classroom
Life in a classroom is so busy that book logs can simply become forgotten with all that teachers need to teach, but having a regularly scheduled time for reflection helps keep book logs alive. Some teachers use a regularly scheduled time each month for book log reflections. Here are a few ideas we have seen teachers use successfully:
- Ask students to look over their reading logs and think about their goals before picking new books each week.
- For homework, ask students each month to review their book logs and write about the patterns and trends they notice. This process helps them set new goals.
- During one reading conference a month, students and teachers review book logs and set goals.
- At the end of a small-group lesson, students review their book logs with a partner and discuss their observations.
When we talk with students about our personal use of logs, we realize that the data helps us to celebrate our successes, set new goals, and work harder. Knowing where we have been and where we have to go is important to us, and important for students as well.