Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Measuring Honest Reading (at Home)

I am thankful to Jill and Cathy at the Curriculum Corner for repeatedly sharing versions of the "Weekly Reading Inventory."  I have blogged about it's purpose and construction here.  I was asked to respond to a reader's two questions about the log and wanted to share my response with other educators that may be pondering the same concerns. This twisted "log" is about forging positive relationships more than it is about a quantifiable assignment.

1.  Do students really use these logs correctly?

Yes, absolutely! However, longevity depends on the passionate diligence of the teacher and family.  

The point of the inventory is to saturate our children with voice and open-ended choice in their reading.  Period.  We want to instill the natural habits of life-long readers. The results give us a weekly relationship-building tool.  We can see what the child likes to read and how they like to read it.  We can use the information to our instructional advantage.  I have heard numerous classroom teachers rave about implementation success built upon the inventory data. Secrets to success:
  • Model how to complete the inventory during class and parent meetings
  • Discuss the long-term intentions and natural actions of life-long readers 
  • Verbally celebrate the classroom reading trends and suggest under utilized activities
  • Call the parents or catch them on the playground and praise specific strategies used for reading at home
  • Display photos of families and students reading at home and specifically annotate the strategy used
  • Conference with children and ask probing questions about information provided in the log
    • Can you tell me more about your experience reading in the bathtub?
    • I noticed you read a recipe this week, what did you make?  Did it turn out the way you expected?
    • What is your favorite magazine to read?  Why?
    • What was it like reading via Skype? 
Christina Hardeman is kindergarten teacher that uses the log as a parent and classroom teacher. She has told me that her kinder parents typically fill out the log and voluntarily write positive notes or comments in the available space.  She had parents, with multiple school-age children, thank her for not making her homework cumbersome.  Others have acknowledged that the flexibility of the "menu" of options helped when juggling a hectic schedule.  

2. What about honesty?

Honesty is always a factor with any homework assignment or reading log. There is always a chance, with anything sent home, that it would not be completed honestly.  Children have been exaggerating the number of minutes read, number of pages read, number of books read, and providing inaccurate/incomplete summaries for decades. What matters in growing life-long readers is unlimited and unrestricted choice.  Honesty comes when the student, family, and teacher have a genuine relationship based on frequent and positive communication.

Teachers can forge relationships with students and families via the conversations about their reading at home.  Many families do not know the myriad of ideas to get their children reading and this inventory is a comprehensive guide.  Additionally, many parents think books are the only text that counts for reading "homework" and teachers can use the inventory to change this misconception.  This inventory expands the options for reading and gives families ideas for making it enjoyable.  Consequently, students and families are more apt to honestly complete the "homework" assignment.

I frequently ask parents to show how the log has impacted them at home and share photos of their family reading.  Sara and Leticia's photos are exceptional examples.

Sara challenged the idea of reading to the family pet. She immediately used the free picture book (middle picture) and had her daughters read to the family pet - a CHICKEN!! 
Leticia was thrilled to receive so many books from the center and the implemented the suggestion of having her husband read aloud to the children. 

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."  Tell them to give you examples, if possible.  The response may give you goosebumps.

I have noticed that my own children are reading more without being prompted.  For example, one particular day my son (that is not an avid reader) shocked me by reading 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 is honest reading that counts.  

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