Purposeful Reading Logs


Google “reading logs”, over six million hits will pop-up instantly.  Reading teachers have been using reading logs for over twenty years.  Unfortunately, I think that the number of explanations for their purpose will be as varied and numerous as the teachers who use them.  This begs the question, “Why are reading logs important in the workshop model?”

Reading teachers worldwide would agree about the necessity and benefits of a regular reading life.  We, reading teachers, wholeheartedly agree with Nancy Atwell in her book, The Reading Zone: How To Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers, “There is no more important homework than reading. Research shows that the highest achieving students are those who devote leisure time to reading, even when the school day and year are only mid-length and homework isn’t excessive. Recently, the largest-ever international study of reading found that the single most important predictor of academic success is the amount of time children spend reading books, more important even than economic or social status. And one of the few predictors of high achievement in math and science is the amount of time children devote to pleasure reading.”  Reading logs became the answer to assigning independent reading as homework and holding students accountable for their reading. Traditionally, reading teachers have believed that the use of reading logs would encourage, enforce, and document their students’ reading lives.  Teachers grade reading logs with the best of intentions.  Many teachers believe that grading the reading logs will emphasize their importance and lead to more students completing them, and thus to an increase in the amount of time students spend reading.  I attribute the beginning of the shift in my own personal paradigm regarding reading logs to Donalyn Miller, the author of The Book Whisperer and Reading In The Wild. At a workshop I attended, she passionately pointed out that the common practice of grading reading logs often turns students and their parents into liars and encourages them to overestimate the number of pages, minutes, or books that they have read in order to improve their grades.    Miller stated, “When we communicate to children that the only reason to read is to earn a reward or grade, we fail to impart reading’s true value.  Reading is its own reward and it bestows immeasurable gifts on readers.”  Miller convinced me that I would never grade another reading log.  So I asked myself, “Why are reading logs important in the workshop model?”  Jennifer Serravallo and Kathleen Tolan of Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project have helped me to see that reading logs can serve as both a powerful teaching and assessment tool.

Reading Logs can serve as a powerful tool in the primary Readers’ Workshop for reminding and teaching emergent readers the importance of rereading.  Jennifer Serravallo provides several excellent examples of reading logs in both versions of her books, The Literacy Teacher’s Playbook Grades K-2 and Grades 3-6.  Her primary reading logs help to train students to reread the books in their book bags in order to improve their fluency and comprehension.  These reading logs incorporate the use of tally marks and symbols to remind students to reread their books and for what purposes.

re-reading log

This is an example created by Jessie Miller, Elementary Language Arts and Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator for Katy ISD, in Katy, Texas.

Serravallo and Tolan both point out that reading logs can provide teachers with useful data.  In Stephen Krashen’s book, The Power of Reading, he documented his research that found that the single greatest factor effecting reading achievement (even above socio-economics) was reading volume-how much reading people do.  The purpose of reading logs in the intermediate grades is to help teachers to track the reading volume of their students and for students to keep track of their reading lives.  The TCRWP describes a quality assessment of volume as including:  a look at their reading level, how many books the student is reading every day, the number of pages the student reads per day, how much reading occurs at home vs. how much reading occurs in school, and how many minutes/hours the student takes to read the book.  Donalyn Miller would add genre to that list in order to provide data about the variety of the texts students are reading and their interest levels in certain genres.  Quality reading logs include all of these.  You’ll notice that there is no mention of requirements, restrictions, or grades.

Reading logs should serve as both teaching tools and data for the classroom teacher.  They should provide teachers with the information that they need in order to help guide students towards a stronger, richer, and more meaningful reading life.  I hope to have validated many of you, and led a few of you to a paradigm shift.  I would love to hear your feedback and opinions!

Have an engaging and successful week of Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop!

Alice Terwege


One thought on “Purposeful Reading Logs

  1. This article validates the use of reading logs in my classroom. It also help me understand under what conditions my students read the most. Some of my high students use the reading logs as a goal tool! I love the reading log created by J. Miller! I might modify it and use it for homework!


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