Thursday, June 27, 2013

How Do You Know They Are Reading?

Yesterday I read Teri Lesesne’s blog on student engagement (HERE) shortly before heading to the local pool. I was intrigued by the article she links in the beginning – a teacher explaining why they used reading logs one year and why they gave them up after that. Teri goes on to discuss the question many teachers ask – without reading logs, how will they hold the students accountable? How will they make sure they read? The answer, I believe, is that you can’t.

Students can “fake” read with reading logs or without. To me, the logs just encourage that. A strong reader will read with or without the logs. Typically they will resent having to fill them out – or their parents will. The student who does not enjoy reading is not going to magically become a reader because they need to fill out a grid detailing what they read the previous night. More work? No thanks.

The question that begs to be asked, then, is how will you know they read if you don’t use reading logs. Conferences. By conferring with my students I know if they are reading or if they aren’t. Do some kids still try and fake it? You bet. Can you catch them? Absolutely. But really, it isn’t about “catching” them – or, it shouldn’t be. What conditions can be put in place to make kids want to read? That’s the question I’m interested in. Because I can confer, book talk, and fill the room with books all I want, but until the students decided they want to join our reading community, it won’t work.

Engagement. I’m fascinated by it. Each year I watch kids and wonder –what made them decide to do the work? Why do some kids “check-in” in my class, but not in another? I was pondering this idea when my student, Josh, came up to see me at the pool. Actually, to be more accurate, I was reading when I heard, “Mrs. S, watch this!” shouted to me from the diving boards.

Josh came over to my chair after his crazy flip off of the high dive and quickly told me he finished Last Olympian. He had borrowed the last two in that series from my son. We quickly fell into a discussion over what made that book a great conclusion for the series and what parts surprised you. I told him that I had to flip back into previous volumes to check on a certain character I had ignored. He told me how impressed he was with Luke’s actions at the end. We had a quick discussion regarding the next series and what his reading plans were for the rest of the summer. (Heroes of Olympus and Maze Runner)

I quickly asked if I could snap a photo of him for my blog, he assented and asked what the topic was. I said I felt like I needed to talk about reading logs and why I didn’t feel they were necessary. He gave me a look and I asked his opinion on them, should I have used one this year? His response, “No way, I hate those things.” Amen, Josh.

This is the face of a reader – a reader I happen to adore. How do I know he’s a reader? I talk to him. I read the same books he reads. We converse –not as teacher-student, but as peers. Josh can teach me just as I can teach him. I don’t think a reading log would ever have given me the insights I have into his reading habits, and I don’t think it would have caused him to become an engaged student. Quite the opposite, I’m afraid. Thanks for the reminder. 

Edited to add...

After writing the above post on Wednesday night as I put Liam to bed, Josh's mom texted me. They were dropping the books he borrowed on the porch. After Liam finally went to sleep, I went down to find the books. Tucked in with the books were some warm chocolate chip cookies and this note. 
Thank you, Josh. 

And, in the spirit of this post, I will note that no reading log created any of this. Relationships did.