Reading Logs generally follow a typical format and are used as a means for students to provide evidence of their at home reading and as a way for teachers to gauge if students are reading enough. The one my son received is an example of a commonly designed Reading Log:
Attached to this year's reading log was also a reading incentive challenge wherein students can earn a reward for maintaining their log and reading the minimum amount of minutes per month.
First, let me state that when my kids engage in nightly reading there are few parameters that they need to abide by. To begin, I don't make them read their "in school" text (unless they have required reading for an upcoming book club discussion). Instead, my kids can read picture books, nonfiction books, comic books, magazines, fan-fiction, and yes, even content rich websites (instagram feeds do not count!). My goal as a parent is to create readers who can deepen their understanding of how the world works by interacting with people and text. Thus my kids view text as paper and digital; fiction and nonfiction; visual and print. Above all, text is engagement. Unfortunately, as I began to scrutinize the Reading Log it occurred to me how narrowly defined the word text really is.
Who is the author?
What first stuck me about the Reading Log was the author column. Here, students must document the text's author which we traditionally think of as one individual whose name is prominently featured on the cover. However, as shown below, none of the popular picture books that I swiped from my son's book shelf actually contained any mention of an author:
Instead, these nonfiction texts were compiled by several writers as noted on the inside cover:
Even more interesting is the positioning of, or credit given to, these writers: they aren't featured at the top of the list. Instead, prominence is given to creative directors, editors, and mostly, the visual stewards who collectively worked to create these enticing reads for kids.
I think it's time the Reading Log is revised to recognize this form of authorship. We need to help kids recognize how the real world of book creation is often a product of artistic co-construction (isn't that what 21st century learning is all about?). By challenging kids to scrutinize how texts are written, in all forms, we not only teach a valuable lesson on the importance of collaboration but we also demonstrate the complexities of creativity.
What is a title?
As long as we're on my son's reading habits, I opened up his iPad to see what he's been up to and this was the web page that popped up:
Go figure. When I asked him why he searched the word "fetus", he explained that his older sister had been calling him that name and he didn't know what it meant. Authentic vocabulary learning at its finest! I then looked at his search history from last week. This was a typical example:
This prompted me to consider what would happen if this had been the school year and he had completed his 30 minutes of nightly reading, how would he document Title? Author? Pages Read? He's read websites about the feeding habits of bearded dragons; investigated how to fish for pike; looked at maps and you tube videos of local lakes in order to deepen his understanding of fishing. There are no traditional titles to these "texts" (instead webpage titles filled with many subpages) yet they are filled with information. He was engaged. He had stamina. His eyes were on text.
A wide body of research has demonstrated that reading begets reading. If our goal as educators is to strengthen our students' reading amount then we need to broaden our view of what counts as text. Most importantly, we need to share that view with kids and parents. All things being equal, if my son was forced to read his "school" book at home instead of being provided choice, would he grow as a reader? Yes. If my son could read all that he wanted in traditional and non-traditional text, would he grow as a reader? Yes. However, the most important question we must ask is, which scenario grows his love of reading and deepens his knowledge of the world?
I contend that when kids are given freedom to roam coupled with teaching that fosters their ability to critically interact with and talk about the oceans of information that is available to them, they will intellectually and socially grow. Ultimately, children need to feel empowered, motivated, and valued in order to develop as readers. And by allowing them access to multiple modes of texts we can do that.
Let's widen our view of reading by starting small with documents like a Reading Log. Let's challenge kids to create their own reading logs. Who are their authors? Their texts? Their genres? Let's give the real experts ownership. I bet if we do, we may no longer need to rely on incentives or "challenges". Who knows? We may actually see some real reform.