Reading Logs for Comprehension and Nightly Reading

Check out why I stopped using traditional reading logs in my classroom, and learn how I renovated the reading log to make it intentional for comprehension and nightly reading.

I have always assigned nightly reading. Why? I don’t assign nightly reading because I want to give students “reading homework.” I don’t assign nightly reading because we’re trying to win a pizza party if we meet a school-wide goal of four billion minutes. Instead, I assign nightly reading because I wish to instill a habit and a love of literacy in my students. I assign nightly reading because it’s good for kids.

  • Research shows us that students who read frequently are not only stronger readers, but they have stronger math skills, too. (See this article from Edudemic.com)
  • Reading twenty minutes a day exposes students to roughly 1.8 million vocabulary words a year. (readdbq.org)
  • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, reading regularly positively affects the brain’s cognitive abilities.

So yes, I assign nightly reading because I know that it benefits my students in more ways than I could ever list in a blog post.

…but I need to admit something. (Cue dramatic music.)

In my early days of teaching, I failed my students when it came to nightly reading. Today, I want to share what I didn’t know at the time, the mistakes I made, and the changes I’ve implemented. These positive changes have led to a smooth nightly reading “system” that my students (and families) nurture and love.

Mistake #1: I Assigned Specific Book Titles

Here's a picture of the leveled library section of my classroom. Check out why I stopped using traditional reading logs in my classroom, and learn how I renovated the reading log to make it intentional for comprehension and nightly reading.

When I first started teaching, I used to have a parent volunteer fill each child’s book baggie with a book from their independent guided reading basket every morning. The parent would fill the bag and send it home with the child. When I look back on this instructional decision, I want to cringe! EEK! Encouraging a love of reading is never going to happen if students don’t have a choice during independent reading.

It’s important that I explain to you that now, my students choose the book they read each night. I do guide them to choosing a book within their independent reading level, but I never assign a specific book title that they have to read. I give them a range of baskets to choose from- including baskets below their independent reading level. (It’s also important to note that the picture above makes up only a small part of my library. The bulk of my books are sorted by genre and topics.) If a child wants to read a book that is beyond his or her independent level, I’m never going to say no. This is especially important at the beginning of the year when our students are still learning how to find books that are just right them. In these situations, I may ask the child to take home TWO books that night- their book of choice and a book that he or she chooses that is within the independent reading level. In this way, the child can read whatever book he or she wants to that night, but if the child chooses to abandon the harder book, he has another book that that is a good fit, too. If the child asks me if he or she can read their library book for their nightly reading, or a book at home, or a book that’s on my read-aloud bookshelf- Yes! Yes! Yes! My goal is for my students to choose a book they want to read and are excited to learn about. Having the ability to choose which book they want to read is critical to the success I’ve had in fostering a learning habit that I pray becomes one of the best parts of their day.

Mistake #2: I Used Traditional Reading Logs

When I first started teaching, my students would read their assigned book and write the title and date of the book on their reading log. The end. That’s it. Did they ever look at that reading log again at the end of the month? Probably not. Did getting a sticker at the end of the month stir up their hearts and make them avid readers after they left my classroom in June? Not at all. So why did I continue to use them? Since I’m not a big believer in dishing out consequences to six-year-olds when homework isn’t completed, I can’t really make an argument that I used them for accountability purposes. Also, since we already agreed that these logs were probably not framed and put on the mantel at home at the end of each month, I can’t really say that I used them so that they could go down memory lane and “revisit” all of the books they read. Since I am being completely open and honest, I think I used them because that’s what I had always seen other teachers use.

However, I can now look back and see that traditional reading logs were not making an impact on my students’ reading skills.

Mistake #3: I Required a Parent Signature

Oops! I almost forgot to share an important detail about our traditional reading logs. After my students filled out the title and date column, a family member or guardian had to sign the log. Every morning, I would then have a conversation with at least a few of my kids that went like this:

Me: “Why isn’t your reading log signed?” Child: “I don’t know.” or “My mom forgot.” or “I read, but Dad didn’t sign it.”

It also never failed that these students’ faces fell when they once again didn’t have their log signed. You see, I learned a lot during that first year of teaching (as we all do). I learned that the parent signature wasn’t helping my students become better readers. Now, some may argue that without requiring a parent signature, we aren’t “teaching” our families the importance of reading with their child. Some may argue that without requiring a parent signature, we aren’t holding parents “accountable” for their responsibility for literacy in the home.

Here’s what I know.

I know that for a lot of my students, they get home and find an older brother or sister to care for them instead of an adult. Moms and dads often work the third shift. I know for that some of my students, it is a struggle to get dinner together, much less find their folder and track down a family member to sign it. I know that giving a consequence, or not giving a child a reward because an adult at home did not sign a reading log is unfair to that child. Period.

How I Revamped Our Nightly Reading Routine

Check out why I stopped using traditional reading logs in my classroom, and learn how I renovated the reading log to make it intentional for comprehension and nightly reading.

Instead of judging a child’s home reading habits by whether or not a parent signed a reading log or not, let’s just focus on the child and the meaning he or she is constructing from the book. Even better, let’s give a purpose to the reading log so parents who ARE reading with their child can just ENJOY the book together and know what reading strategy the child is working on at school.

Let me show you how I revamped our nightly reading system and the changes I made:

Change #1: Our Reading Logs Have a Purpose

Reading logs with a twist! Check out why I stopped using traditional reading logs in my classroom, and learn how I renovated the reading log to make it intentional for comprehension and nightly reading.

With a traditional reading log, recording the title and the date didn’t even require my students to open the book. I wanted to create intentional reading logs that would:

  • Help my students reflect on a specific strategy or skill that we were working on within the classroom
  • Provide an easy way for parents and guardians to see what their children are working on at school
  • NOT take more than a minute or two to complete, therefore keeping the focus on reading for enjoyment
  • Work for ALL levels of readers and writers due to differentiated formats
  • Teach responsibility by creating something my students could complete independently

I created a HUGE pack of “renovated” reading logs that focus on one comprehension area, skill, or strategy at a time. Each log asks the child to read, write the title of the book, and then either write, draw, reflect, or record something related to the week’s focus. My students get their logs on Mondays and they turn them in on Fridays. They complete one box each night. For example, on the “My Interesting Words Reading Log”, the student simply jots down some interesting words he or she found in the book. In the “Main Idea Reading Log”, the child jots down the main idea or topic of what he or she read. There are also versions that allow the students to draw or illustrate their understanding. The logs contain a huge variety of options! Each week, I simply pick out the log that works on a skill we have been practicing. We also revisit the logs frequently throughout the year.

UPDATE: Since writing this blog post, I’ve also added a DIGITAL READING LOG version to my store HERE.

Here are some of the included reading logs:

  • My Favorite Part
  • Setting and Character
  • Nonfiction Text Features
  • Main Idea and Details
  • Retelling
  • Visualization
  • Author and Illustrator
  • Cause and Effect
  • Compare and Contrast
  • My Mental Image
  • Questioning Log
  • Genre Log
  • My Fiction or Nonfiction Log
  • Author’s Purpose
  • …and SO MANY MORE!

Below are some example pictures of the Reading Logs I created:

Reading logs with a twist! Here are student samples of reading logs that have a purpose for comprehension and self-monitoring skills. Check out why I stopped using traditional reading logs in my classroom, and learn how I renovated the reading log to make it intentional for comprehension and nightly reading.

I don’t penalize students for not completing their reading logs. If they complete all four boxes at the end of the week, they get extra Class Dojo points, which they can “spend” on various rewards they get to choose from. If they come to school without having completed their reading log, they are allowed to fill it out in the morning, if they choose. (Extra Information: I always get asked, “Why don’t you have a fifth box for Fridays?” I encourage weekend reading and they are of course encouraged to take books home over the week, but we just don’t take home a log. I really don’t believe in requiring anything over the weekend because I believe it’s a time for family, so I will not be adding a fifth box to this resource. However, you could print it double-sided if you needed to.)

Some teachers use these reading logs for small groups, independent reading, or partner reading. You certainly do not need to use them as a take-home resource! There are tons of possibilities for these intentional reading logs!

Change #2: We Focused On Meaning- Not Signatures

Check out why I stopped using traditional reading logs in my classroom, and learn how I renovated the reading log to make it intentional for comprehension and nightly reading.

Requiring a parent signature as part of the way a reading log is deemed “completed” did nothing but separate my students into two groups: those whose parents and guardians remembered to diligently sign the reading log and those whose parents and guardians didn’t sign the reading log. What was I teaching my students? I was teaching them that a parent signature = nightly reading success. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in teaching responsibility to my students with my entire being- but I think there are other ways to do that at school that doesn’t put a child who comes from a chaotic home situation at an unfair advantage. Remember, I am not working with freshmen in high school. I’m working with six and seven-year-olds. (Psst! They are still babies in the grand scheme of life!)

So, instead of “evaluating” a reading log by the number of parent signatures it contained, we VALUE our reading logs by the DISCUSSIONS we can have from them and the MEANING we acquired from the books we read. These logs make nightly reading about the child- not the parents.

Change #3: Keep It Quick and Simple

Kindergarten and first grade reading logs with a twist! Check out why I stopped using traditional reading logs in my classroom, and learn how I renovated the reading log to make it intentional for comprehension and nightly reading.It was important to me that these new reading logs were kept simple, quick, and easy. We want our students’ time to be invested in the book and the enjoyment of reading. We don’t want their nightly reading time to be spent laboring over writing a summary that takes them so long to write that it cuts into the time they spend reading.

I love when I can look at these quick and simple reading logs each morning and be able to say to a student, “Wow! I can see that the book you read last night took place on a farm. Did you love learning about the farm?” when I glance at the child’s “My Setting and Character Reading Log”. With just a quick illustration or a simple but intentional sentence, I can get students to remember what they read the night before and be able to start TALKING about it with me!

I start using these reading logs right away with my first graders! For the first few weeks of our nightly reading program, I use the “My Favorite Part Reading Log”. It allows students to simply draw a picture of their favorite part of the story each night. I then move on to the “Setting and Character Reading Log”, and then the “Retelling Reading Log”. As we work our way through other comprehension skills, the log they take home every Monday changes. There are even weeks when I throw out a few different reading logs and the students can choose which log they want to work on that week! These simple and quick logs have made a BIG difference in my primary nightly reading system.

Where Can I Find These Reading Logs?

I want you to be able to try these Skill-Based Reading Logs out with your students! If you click on my reading logs link found HERE, or on the picture below, you can find these in my shop. I have even better news, too! If you click on the Preview Download button for this resource in my shop, you can get one of the reading log templates for FREE!

Check out why I stopped using traditional reading logs in my classroom, and learn how I renovated the reading log to make it intentional for comprehension and nightly reading.

NEW DIGITAL EDITION!

I have recently added a new extension pack to my shop: a DIGITAL, PAPERLESS version of my Reading Logs! You can find the DIGITAL READING LOGS by clicking HERE, or on the image below. These reading logs will open in Google Slides and can be typed into by the students. There is also a tutorial that shows them how to draw pictures on their digital logs. Please note that the digital version is a separate purchase from the PDF printable version.

Digital Reading Logs for students and teachers!

If you’re still reading this blog post, it’s obvious that you, like me, understand the value in nightly reading. You also understand that constructing meaning from what we read is more important than the number of books we list on a log. I’m going to also bet that you agree with me that we should focus on developing great independent reading habits instead of worrying about things that are truly beyond our control (such as a reading log that isn’t signed). I’m grateful that you have taken the time to allow me to share how my nightly reading “system” has changed over the years. I love watching my students grow as readers over the school year, and I hope this post helps you as you reflect on your own classroom procedures and the vivacious readers that you are nurturing!

Please feel free to pin the photographs below to your Pinterest boards in order to save this post for future reference or to share it with your colleagues and friends. Happy Reading! -Miss DeCarbo

Check out why I stopped using traditional reading logs in my classroom, and learn how I renovated the reading log to make it intentional for comprehension and nightly reading.

Check out why I stopped using traditional reading logs in my classroom, and learn how I renovated the reading log to make it intentional for comprehension and nightly reading.

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43 Comments

  1. This is so great! I am going to be purchasing and using next year! This is so much more meaningful! Thanks

  2. I love your thinking and I agree with it. We have to do guided reading groups though, so how could we do this?

    1. Hello, Holly! I use guided reading groups, too. 🙂 Since these logs are used for nightly, independent reading, they don’t take the same book home as the members of their groups. They just take home a good-fit book that they want to read. I hope this helps!

  3. OMG, I absolutely love this change. With my current school year nearly over, I am looking forward to implementing it next year. THANK YOU!!

  4. I started using these this year and I am in LOVE with the results. I do not use them for homework but rather an in class assignment. On Monday I use an interactive read aloud and then model my expectations based on the reading skill we are learning each week. My students HAVE REALLY responded and the quality of thier work is great. Thank you for your ideas!!

  5. I am looking forward to trying this with my Kinders. Doing it in class together with read alouds first is an awesome idea. I will be sharing with my colleagues as well.

  6. I really like this idea. How would you have a student who is reading chapter books fill this out?

    1. Some of the logs will work each night regardless of the book being a picture book or a chapter book. For example, if the log is on visualization or retelling, the student would complete the log each night based off of whichever chapter or pages he or she read. For the logs that do not work that way (such as maybe “setting and characters” for example), you could even staple a few different logs together and the child could choose a box to complete for the night’s reading assignment. I hope this helps! 🙂

      1. I love this option for chapter books too! We have Superkids for our curriculum and the 2nd grade chapter book material is so dry, in my personal opinion of course. This would be a great way to truly dissect the text! Thank you!
        Mara

  7. Reading this really fired my teacher instincts! I am already flooded with ideas on how to modify this strategy for my 4th graders. Thank you for sharing about your path to this fantastic idea. I’m ready to inspire my readers!

    1. Thank you so much, Megan. I’m so glad these reading logs will be helpful for you and your students! Have a wonderful new year!

      1. Most of the templates come with differentiated sheets for drawing and writing. 🙂 My students also take home books on their independent reading level so that each child is reading a just-right book that he or she chose to read.

  8. I love this idea and will be using it! Thank you! I do wonder how you handle those kids who just aren’t going to read outside the classroom. Do they use class time to complete the reading? Recess? I hate to use either of those since they need both, but I never know what is best.

    1. Hi Maggie! They are allowed to complete their reading log box during our Daily 5 Read to Self time. They could also complete the box after reading at the small group table with me, and use whatever book it is that we read that day. My thoughts are that I can’t control what happens outside of my classroom, so I’d rather than focus on the reading they complete in the classroom, rather than not read at all. 🙂

  9. Hi there! I just purchased these tonight, and I was wondering if there was a parent letter to go along with them that I am missing?

    1. Hello! 🙂 There is not a parent letter included since everyone tends to use them a little differently depending upon his or her individual class and situation. Everything that’s listed in the description of the resource is included. 🙂 I hope you love it!

  10. I just purchased your “Reading Logs with a Purpose” I have struggled with home work over the past few years! First, only reading with a traditional log – messy, not signed, boring (for students and for ME!) Then I tried a huge comprehensive packet with a specific task for each night of the week, spelling, math, and developing a paragraph! (Im shaking my head – no.) This intentional, skills based, reading response page gives my students exactly what they need. It’s interesting, purposeful and, as you say, can be aligned with the skills we’re working on in class. Thank you.

    1. Thank you SOO much for sharing this wonderful feedback!! I am humbled that you find it as purposeful and meaningful for your students as I find it for mine. I’m SO glad it is working so well for you! Thank you! 🙂 -Christina

  11. I want to modify this for my middle school students. Any ideas? I don’t want it to become daunting for them or me.

  12. I really like the idea of no longer requiring a parent signature. I am so tired of fighting that battle. I teach 5th grade and can see ways that I can modify for them!! Awesome resource!!!

  13. Wow, this is awesome thank you for shedding the light I’m not a teacher but my second grade daughter had reading logs at school last year and would get in trouble if she didn’t get it signed she would even miss out on recess for it. This year I’m homeschooling her and I’m so happy to of have found this! I’m so happy to think I found someone who thinks the way I do. I hope teachers are able to come across this blog and incorporate this in order to change reading and guide it into something so much better. Your considerate heart will help kids really grow and show their potential. Thank you for sharing this!

  14. I LOVE this! I am a mom of three (7 grade, second grade, and kindergarten), and from a parent’s perspective, this is fabulous. The teachers for my youngest kiddos don’t use anything like this, but we can implement this at home, especially for my kindergartener. Thank you for this great resource!

  15. Why do you not believe in consequences for incomplete homework? The earlier they start, the earlier they learn.

    1. Hi, Valerie! Thank you for your question. At the age of six years old, many of my students do not have control over their home situations, and many do not have adults to read with them in the evenings. I am not anti-consequences, I am anti-consequences for not having an adult sign a reading log- something that a little one has 0 control over. These student-led reading logs put the child in control of their own reading habits, making everyone successful and giving everyone accessibility to the homework. I also believe that reading should always be presented as a gift and never as a chore. As a result, I typically have a 100% turn-in rate for this homework every week. By taking ownership over their reading, they have grown more in the area of responsibility than any other homework routine I have used. 🙂 I hope this helps!

  16. Hello!

    I just came across these and am wanting to use them with my 2nd graders this year! Do your students bring the book and this reading log to and from school every day? Thank you for this resource!

    1. They bring the reading log to and from school in their folder Monday-Friday. It gets turned in on Friday and a new one goes home on Monday. They bring a different book home each night.:)

  17. Thank you for this! Two years ago my child had to have EVERYTHING signed nightly, including a reading log. I’m a SAHM, so I’m able to be involved, and my husband is an amazing hands on dad as well, so this was never really an issue in terms of getting it done. But OMG I got so sick of it by January. Come March I was ready to burn it, May I just said no more. It. Was. So. Tedious. I can’t imagine what it was like for the kids with an unstable home life or busy/working parents. How draining, disappointing, and disheartening it must be for some kids.

  18. It’s like you are speaking to my teacher soul! I love this so much. What a meaningful and practical method. I will implement this procedure this coming year. You’ve got me stoked!

  19. This is fabulous! What a great way to have parents gain a better understanding of story elements and reading skills! I can’t wait to share with my colleagues!

  20. I really like these ideas and the reason why you changed the way you do reading logs. I teach kindergarten and these are great ideas that I can use with my kindergarten students. Thank you for sharing and posting what you have learned and the ideas you have created for others to use in our classrooms for our very own students. I will buy the ideas for class as well as reading logs for homework. I can’t wait to share with my student teacher as well.

  21. I love using your logs in my reading groups but now I would like to start sending these home like you did. Do you have a parent letter that went home explaining this to them? Thank you.

    1. I don’t have a parent letter, as every teacher uses them in a different way. I explained to my parents that a new one will go home every Monday and it is due on Friday. 🙂

  22. I was just thinking how I hate reading logs and how pointless it is for parents to write the name of the book on a piece of paper. I teach Kindergarten and I’m going to create something similar. I loved seeing your ideas. I sent your post to a friend and said – this lady was reading my mind!

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