Christine Organ, the Associate Editor and Social Media Manager of Scary Mommy, tracked me down through Facebook Messenger and asked if I would answer a few questions about the reading "log" I developed. She masterfully condensed my response and wrote an amazing piece. Her Facebook post has received an outpouring of positive feedback from educators and families!
I have included my full response to her Q & A below.
(1) Please tell us a bit about your background.
I graduated from the University of Central Missouri on December 15, 2001. The month prior to graduation, I was hired on the spot at a conference table that said, “Come and Teach in Las Vegas.” It is nearly impossible to find a teaching position in Missouri midyear, so my husband and I decided to move across the country. I started teaching 5th grade the week after graduation to a classroom of 33 students. I taught 5th and 2nd grade before completing my Master’s degree in Literacy. Upon completion of my degree, I became a Learning Strategist, Literacy Specialist, and Performance Zone Instructional Coach. I am a published author with the International Literacy Association and have presented internationally. Currently, I enjoy writing and presenting family engagement workshops for our district’s Family and Community Engagement Services (FACES). This rewarding position allows me the opportunity to share with parents, districtwide, some of the strategies I shared with teachers and use at home with my own growing children.
(2) How did you develop the alternate reading log?
Years ago, while working as a Performance Zone Instructional Coach, I was assigned to a school with a progressive principal that was adamant about implementing a new “no homework” policy school-wide. RShe asked me to develop a homework reading “log” that could be used in all grade levels (K-5th grade). The “log” needed to give open-ended and family-friendly reading ideas to encourage wide reading based on student choice. Additionally, the log could not ask students to record minutes (why put a limit on fun?) and could not include any pointless or mundane writing of book titles.
(3) Have you found other teachers and parents to be supportive of it?
Unbelievable response! Two years ago, Kindergarten teacher, Christina Hardeman, was the first person to give me feedback about using the log as a parent and classroom teacher. She told me that her kinder parents typically filled out the log and voluntarily wrote positive notes or comments in the available space each week. She had parents, with multiple school-age children, thank her for not making her homework assignment a cumbersome process. Other parents acknowledged that the flexibility of the "menu" of options helped when juggling a hectic schedule.
When I joined the FACES department, I shared the inventory and multiple positive responses from classroom teachers and their families. Immediately, the FACES Director asked me to write a University of Family Learning workshop around the ideas of the inventory and have the ideas translated into Spanish. “100 Waysto Raise a Reader” is the title of the workshop, and it has been presented to more than 120 schools in our district. It is our most requested workshop!
During the one hour workshop, we present families with the research about the importance of reading. We also share a bank of ideas to demonstrate how to overcome the common excuses children give for not wanting to read. The workshop slides are filled with pictures and testimonials of everyday families using the ideas. One size does not fit all. At the conclusion of the workshop, we ask families to choose just one idea that they can implement immediately that day and write it on an exit slip. The responses vary and it’s exciting to see what a parent chooses as a goal. Please visit our website (here) to view photos and download the ideas. Additionally, search the social media hashtag (#CCSDReads) to see testimonials and photos from families and schools in our district.
Parents literally rush up to us, at the conclusion of the workshop, with mile-wide smiles and hugs. I had a father who shared that his kindergarten daughter recently wanted to try gymnastics and he has enrolled her in lessons. He is excited to search for books about gymnastics and successful gymnasts to provide relevant materials she may enjoy! Parents that are overwhelmed with the technological distractions, are pleased to hear that audio books are acceptable, and usually available at no cost from their child’s school. Countless parents shared that they felt compelled to read with their children more, read consistently, and start providing choice in materials (even graphic novels).
(4) What do kids think of it?
Children love the ideas and active involvement of their parents. I have had several children pick ideas like reading in the bathtub, reading with a flashlight, and reading with a family pet. The responses that stick out to me the most are the children that are thankful for the opportunity to read with their parent. As educators, we assume too often that this is occurring in our students’ homes.
(5) How do you think this reading log promotes reading without turning an enjoyable activity into a chore, like so many reading logs do?
I believe that the simplicity of its’ function and design promotes reading. We are simply listing habits of life-long readers and providing a choice. Life-long readers do not read for prizes, count pages, or write titles of books. Rather, readers who read for pleasure enjoy reading on the go, select a variety of materials, enjoy sharing or comparing thoughts with others, and are always on the hunt for the next thrill.
(6) What impact have you seen in students using this alternate reading log?
Based on feedback following our workshops, parents have shared that their children are more eager to read without prompting. I have seen students feel liberated to read. Students who are eager to share their week of reading with their classmates and swap stories from their journey. From the Facebook testimonials of parents, I have seen reluctant students read with their parents for the first time.
As a facilitator of a Family Engagement Center, I heard parents proudly speak about steps they have taken that will affect generations. In our workshop, we encourage families to read aloud to their children in the language that they feel most comfortable. This is astounding to many who have been silenced in the past due to fear of negatively impacting their child’s academic growth. One Spanish-speaking mother left our workshop, grabbed a handful of books written in Spanish, and shared them with her husband. She emailed a photo of her husband reading with their 3rd and 4th grade boys for the first time. He had never read to them before and now felt safe to share a love of literacy.
I have noticed that my own children are reading more for their own pleasure. For example, my son (who is not an avid reader) shocked me by choosing to read in the car and then continued reading at the doctor's office. Without my usual prompting, he chose to read something he enjoyed and sustained his reading much longer than the typical "required" minutes. It's moments like these that help me, teachers, and other parents know we are developing life-long readers. This honest reading counts.
(7) Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
How do we know if this inventory is accomplishing our long-term goal of developing students that independently choose to read? Ask parents if they are noticing their children are reading more without being told or asked to "read for 20 minutes." Ask them to give you examples, if possible. Their response may give you goosebumps!