Well, school has started again, and with
it all the tiny forgotten pleasures and irritants of the school day.
Forgotten pleasure: amazing and interesting books are discovered in the (for us) neutral
territory of the teachers' libraries. Forgotten irritant: the reading log.
When I first started this blog I wanted to be careful to respect teachers and their ways. And truly, that hasn't
changed. It is amazing to me that anyone has the focus, patience, and
fortitude to try to reach a whole classroom-full of children, and I am
forever grateful that they do, and that we have been lucky enough to
encounter so many amazing ones.
That still leaves me with the reading log, though.
don't know how many of you out there have reading logs in your life.
For those who don't, it is, essentially, a record your child keeps of
the books he or she reads every day, including title, author's name,
how long read, etc. Since daily reading is part of the assigned
homework, every day the child then enters the book read into the
reading log. And it isn't supposed to stop there—every book the child
reads, at any time, for any reason, is supposed to be entered into the
It sounds so simple, doesn't it? As I write it down I can't quite believe what a horrendous burden it has turned into for us.
I see it, the reading log is difficult because asks the child to do
something that is antithetical to the act of reading, taking something
that is essentially interior and amorphous and making it exterior and
quantifiable. And how does this, er, difficulty, manifest itself? By intense and
In Chestnut's case, it's mostly a constant "forgetting" to fill it in,
prolonged weeping when a missing 3 or 5 days of reading presents itself
("I don't remember what I read! I don't remember how far I got!"). With
Diana, the resistance is deeper and more complex: the reading logs
disappear; she will forget to fill them in; for a long time she read an
additional and entirely different set of books to put on the log so she
wouldn't have to disclose what she was really reading, because that
felt private to her.
I do understand that it really helps teachers to know what and how much
a child is reading, but to me, the logs end up making reading this
unlovable regimented chore. In my house, by this time (third and fifth
grades), the protests have faded. The girls dutifully fill in their
reading logs (when reminded), they haven't yet cried so much about
them, they just…do it. But the whole enterprise still feels so wrong
to me. It's as if someone came up to you post-orgasm and said, "How was that? Would you give it a five? Or a four? Please, just write it down on this form each time." It just seems so—contrary to what great reading is.
And I know, I know—teachers have to know that they do, in fact, read the books. No doubt if I lived in the age of book reports I would hate that just as much. It just sort of kills me to watch the two of them have to do it. It reminds of that Donald Barthelme story, the one called "A Manual for Sons" in Sixty Stories where he says, "Son, you're going to have to be socialized." It altogether makes me feel like I am wanting in bravery, that I am letting my child be sacrificed to the gods of all that is not great. This, I probably don't need to say, is not a good feeling.