Here’s what makes my children love reading: Reading together, having their very own library cards, talking about books, sharing books I loved as a child, watching the movie version of the book after reading it (we did this with the entire Harry Potter series), and letting them loose inside of a book store and allowing them to choose a book of their choice.
Here’s what makes my children hate reading: The Reading Log.
My children read every night before they go to sleep, almost ritually. They are not allowed to have screens in bed, but are allowed to spend some time reading. My oldest is working her way through To Kill a Mockingbird and Pretty Little Liars while my youngest was just introduced to The Baby-sitters Club. And my son reads a different novel each night, whatever he can get his hands onto and sink his teeth into.
But this is because I have stopped making them fill out their reading logs.
Nothing sucks the joy out of reading more than being forced to keep track of the pages you read. When reading becomes a chore, a requirement, a form students have to fill out, a form they need to get signed, it stops being something they do because they love it.
But it teaches responsibility you say? In our house it teaches my sleepy-eyed fourth grader to stress about filling it out in the morning, during the time she’s getting up, brushing her teeth, brushing her hair, getting dressed, assisting in making her lunch, eating breakfast, and making sure she has all of her belongings in her backpack and getting out of the door on time. You know, being responsible.
I want to be clear. I’m not anti-homework. In fact, I believe that a lot of the homework and many of the projects my children work on outside of school is extremely effective and worthwhile. My fourth grader is learning about pulleys and gears. She came home with a project asking her to think about the pulleys and gears that she uses in her life. She asked questions, she read and researched, she thought about simple machines. And now she fully understands. My oldest daughter did a project on musicians, following genres of music from ancient times up until today. We had hilarious, awesome, and insightful conversations about music (I think we all learned something during this assignment).
Work that adds to what they are learning in school is important, work that brings learning from the classroom to the student’s life is worthwhile.
Reading logs do not add or enhance. In fact, they are basically just an exercise in obedience.You will fill this out. Let’s discuss the books they are reading. Let’s talk about morals and plots and metaphors and why our favorite fictional characters are our favorites. Let’s read a book in school and then bring home an interesting project to work on about the book. Add. Enhance. Think outside of the reading log box. Dig deeper.
Let’s stop worrying about writing down how many pages they read every night and using a stopwatch to measure reading for pleasure. Because I truly believe that’s the quickest way to take the pleasure out of it.
Photo: Ali Martell