To be honest, I’ve struggled with book logs from year one in my teaching career. I’ve used about every type out there and never seem to like any of them. Do you track the number of minutes students read every day? How about page numbers? Do I want students to write the exact number of pages they read every time? How about frequency? Should they record a book every single time they open it? Or just when they begin and end a book? Ugh. What’s a reading teacher to do?
I’ve tried to learn from the experiences of others and read books on the subject by “people in the know.” I’ve spent a great deal of time really considering - what’s the point? What is it is that I truly want to know about students’ reading? And whatever my answers are should be what’s on that log. Nothing more, nothing less. So I’ve created two resources - a reading record for in-class reading and a log for reading homework. This strategy lesson describes how I use the in-class log.
After some reflection, I decided that I needed to know the following about students’ in-class reading:
- What are you reading? I don’t need to know just the names of titles, but also the genres. This tells me about affinities, helps me determine trends, and enables me to make recommendations. Of course it also tells me if they are able to determine what is the genre. This knowledge is crucial for students to truly comprehend texts. I also want to know what types of books are students reading - picture or chapter? Having students list the total number of pages tells me this.
- How long are you spending on each book? Do I really need to have my students list a book every single time they open it? No - what a waste of time! I’d rather they list it once and spend the rest of the time reading! Instead, just tell me when you start a book and when you end it. I should be smart enough to take this information with the total number of pages and determine if you are spending too much time on a book or too little. This helps me know if students are voraciously reading, if they’re in the habit of abandoning books, and/or if they’re not reading at all.
- Are you able to summarize what you’ve read? Can you tell me about your book in a succinct sentence or two? If they’re listing why they liked the book or giving me one specific detail, then I know that they either don’t understand the book, didn’t read the entire text, or simply need to learn how to summarize. All of these answers help guide my instruction for small and whole groups.
- Can you be reflective about your reading? Do you know if a book is too easy, perfect, or too challenging for you? If it was too challenging did you keep going? (If yes, WHY?? You know better!) If I see all “P”s circled, but know that the books aren’t even close to being perfect for that student, I can re-teach the STAR rules. Do you enjoy what you read? Students rate books with 1 - 4 stars:
1 star - I didn’t like this book at all and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
2 stars - This book was OK; not great, but not terrible.
3 stars - This was a good book.
4 stars - This was one of the best books I’ve ever read!
- Are you an active participant in your reading community? Think about who, in this room or in your life, might like this book. What kind of reader would enjoy it best? Someone who likes mystery? A girl? A boy? Someone who likes short books? Spend some time thinking about your book and then select a person or two for whom it might be a STAR fit.
As adults, we typically never read “cold” books - books we just randomly pick off of a shelf, dive into, but know nothing about. We usually read what we do because someone else recommends it to us. Our sister finished a book and sent it our way or a girlfriend tells us, “you simply must read this one!” or because Oprah tells us to. I truly want students to be engaged in authentic reading experiences and fall in love with reading. This won’t happen if they never know what book to read next or are always reading “cold” with no background knowledge or information to help build comprehension. I want students to be in the habit of recommending books to others and having great conversations about books they love. To start this process, I have them tell me at least one person in their lives to whom they would recommend each book. Of course, if they give the book one star, they wouldn't recommend this book to anyone! However, the point is to get them thinking about themselves as an important member of the reading community and whose recommendations just might be the ones that turns a “reading hater” into a “reading lover”!