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Are Reading Logs Useful? Benefits, Alternatives & Downloadable Template

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Two children reading a book together at their desks, before adding the book to their reading log.

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Reading logs have been around forever. Chances are you spent a fair bit of time completing reading logs when you were in school — tracking your reading time or the number of pages read each day. It’s been a popular tool for both summer reading programs and classroom reading for years.

Reading logs may be a useful tool for parents and teachers to track reading activity, but are they actually helping young readers? Or are they causing students to lose motivation to read for pleasure? 

It’s time to explore the pros and cons of reading logs.

Looking for a new reading log? Jump ahead to download our free printable template!

What is a reading log?

A reading log is a document used to keep up with your child’s reading. It typically tracks the amount of time spent reading or the number of pages read. 

Have you signed your child up for your local library’s summer reading program? Or participated in a challenge with them, such as 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten? If you’ve spent time tracking their reading, you’ve already used a reading log.

These logs can be kept on paper (like a form provided by their teacher) or may be done virtually. There are even apps you can download to track reading for you or your child. 

A reading log can cover a month, season, semester or the entire year. It can be used in any grade and at any age (though beginning readers will need their parents’ help), but middle school is an especially popular time for reading logs.

Child writing in her reading log.

How a reading log works

Reading logs come in a wide variety of styles, but the basic process is always the same. 

To complete a reading log, the student needs to 

  1. Set aside time to read.
  2. Choose a book (or grab their assignment).
  3. Spend time reading.
  4. Record the book’s title, author and the amount of time read or the number of pages read (being sure to complete the minimum required).
  5. Complete any additional questions or activities in their reading log.
  6. Repeat it all again tomorrow.

And that’s it! It’s a simple process that mostly requires finding ways to spend time reading.

Educational benefits of reading logs 

If a student is working on their reading log, that means they’re reading. And that’s great! Reading is a fantastic way to learn about the world, expand their vocabulary and ignite their imagination. 

Beyond just encouraging children to read, there are several other benefits to reading logs. 

1. Reading logs may help with reading comprehension

A student gains little from reading if they aren’t understanding the material. 

For older students, a reading log may include questions to help them identify the main topics while they read. Some reading logs even include book reports for older students or sections for younger students to illustrate big ideas. 

With the help of a reading log, parents and teachers can see how well the student is understanding their reading, and be ready to help with reading comprehension strategies, if needed.

2. Reading logs bring structure to independent reading

If a student is having a difficult time picking up a book, a reading log can give them that extra push to find time in their day to read. 

Many reading logs ask for 20 minutes of daily reading. Once they find that time, it’s much easier to keep it up. The extra accountability of a reading log can help both students and adults read more often.

Child wearing glasses and smiling while reading a book at her desk.

3. Reading logs make great resources for book reports and other reading assignments

As a teacher or homeschooling parent, it helps to know the books each student chooses to read. This can give you a lot of insight into their interests, which can help with future book recommendations and assignments. 

At the end of the semester, choose a book from the student’s reading log to focus on — perhaps the one that best suits the themes you’ve recently covered. Then have them complete some directed assignments exploring the text and digging deeper into its meaning.

4. Reading logs are versatile

No matter your teaching style, there’s a reading log to suit your needs. From basic book tracking to more in-depth literary exploring, you can find the right resource for your classroom or child.

Check out our reading log below for a great option, or even design your own! If you’re teaching virtually, look into using an app. 

If you notice an area that your students need to practice, add it to your log. Reading logs are an easy way to track their progress and try out new reading strategies

Problems with using reading logs

Reading logs are meant to encourage independent reading, but some studies suggest they may actually have the opposite effect. 

Rather than finding reading a fun activity, it can become a chore — just another thing busy students have to check off their list. Even students who love to read may lose their momentum when a reading log is introduced. 

Here are a few reasons why you might want to explore alternatives to reading logs.

1. Reading logs can be tedious

No matter the style of log you use, some students find them a boring and uninspired, yet necessary chore. 

Simple logs are helpful for parents and teachers to keep track of what students are reading, but may do little to help motivate the reader. 

Other, more complicated logs end up providing your most voracious readers with additional busywork. The more books they complete, the more questions they must answer and more synopses they must write. It’s easy to see how this can quickly discourage accomplished readers, leading to an actual decrease in reading time.

2. Reading logs may not be the best way to teach reading comprehension

Reading logs that ask questions about the books students are reading can shed light on a child’s reading comprehension skills. But do they actually help teach reading comprehension? Questions to ponder while reading can help. But even better is the back and forth of conversation.

Instead of a reading log, another option is to ask your students about what they’re reading during a group discussion. Or, pair them up and let them share with their peers. 

Ask questions that come up naturally in conversation, like:

  • What happened next? 
  • How did this part make you feel? 
  • What do you think the author was trying to convey here? 

Talk about it together, show an honest interest in their story and let the words flow.

Overwhelmed child adding to her reading log, with two large piles of books in front of her.

3. Reading logs are not an “authentic” reading experience

Do you enjoy reading? If so, why do you read? 

Chances are it has nothing to do with filling out a form or tracking your time for a grade. Maybe you read to learn something new, or because it allows you a chance to escape and dream. Or perhaps you joined a book club and enjoy that monthly social time.

Kids enjoy reading for the same reasons adults do. When you introduce motivations that have less to do with the joy it brings and more to do with making a grade or completing an assignment, kids can lose that motivation. 

When adults read, we may choose to dig deeper into the symbolism of a story, going down the Google rabbit hole to see what others have to say about it all. Or maybe we just keep reading, choosing to enjoy the experience on its surface. Either way, as an adult, that’s totally okay. You’re enjoying your book and learning without any pressure to perform. 

But when kids enjoy a story, then are questioned about all the tiny details, they may lose confidence. But their reading experience doesn’t have to look like ours. If we want them to ultimately enjoy reading and stories, we have to be okay with that. 

4. Reading logs rely on external motivators

Many teachers use reading logs as part of a student’s class grade. Sometimes, it even turns into a competition — the more you read the more prizes you qualify for. 

While this may have short-term positive effects in getting kids to read, long-lasting intrinsic motivation is lacking.

As adults, we read because it brings us joy or is teaching us something we want to learn. Allowing students to choose their own books for independent reading is a great start to improving a child’s love of reading. But if they are only ever reading because they want to pass their class or win a competition, their love of reading for reading’s sake is not likely to grow. 

How useful are reading logs in practice?

To answer this question, it’s important to look at who’s using them. Are reading logs useful for students? Probably not as much as we would like to think. Some may enjoy keeping tabs on the books they read during a year — but these students would likely make their own list without any prompting. 

Other students will just complete reading logs as a necessary requirement of their classes, giving as little thought to them as necessary. It’s what comes after the completed reading log that will make the greatest difference.

Are reading logs useful for teachers and parents? Yes— they can provide some great insight into a child’s interests. From there, you can ask questions about which books they enjoyed and why, and then make some strong suggestions for future reading. This is beneficial for both the student and the adult. But as a tool to encourage your students’ love of reading, there are many alternatives worth a try.

5 Alternatives to reading logs for book lovers

1. Reading bookmark challenges

Kids love a good challenge! So keep their motivation high with themed reading challenges throughout the year. 

To do a classroom bookmark challenge, hand out a bookmark with different reading goals every week or two (check out some fun ideas here).

As the students complete each challenge, they color in that section of their bookmark. Then they can choose their next adventure. Bonus — since these are bookmarks, they serve a double purpose and are easy to keep up with. These challenges are a great way to encourage younger students to read while still providing plenty of choices.

2. Reading partners & group readings

Did you ever read something exciting and immediately seek out someone else who could talk about it? Some books need to be discussed and processed before we can move on. Acknowledge that need and create book discussion groups in your classroom or at home.

These groups can be done in person or virtually. Each student can discuss their individual book — sharing what they found interesting or exciting (watch out for spoilers!). But this activity works best when groups read the same text. Look for those just-right times to open up the discussion. Was there just a huge character reveal? It’s time to talk it out!

3. Reading journal 

A reading journal can be a great option for older students. They can write down their thoughts and feelings on the books they’re reading without the extra pressure of a classroom chat. A journal will also feel more private and safe for sharing their feelings than a huge class discussion. Include prompts, or just encourage free-flowing thoughts.

4. Book vlogs

Vlogging is a great way to share experiences and thoughts. Outgoing older kids will love the chance to post on social media in a parent-approved way, and it can create great insight into their learning. Students are already using YouTube and Instagram — let’s give them a fun educational use.

Have students share online, video book reviews or create fun reaction videos. They can share their unique personality with the world while thinking creatively. 

5. Use technology

There are so many ways for students to explore literature, and you can find many of them online. Ask them to create a project on Canva that ties in with their chosen book. Maybe a missing person’s poster describing a major character, or a travel brochure describing the book’s setting. 

Or check out BookSnaps — a literary take on Snapchat. A BookSnap is simply a picture of a page from their book that students would like to share or comment on. They snap a pic, highlight the passage, and include digital stickers and comments just like on Snapchat or Facebook stories. With the right technology, you can keep reading fresh and fun.

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Child reading a book from his reading log in an armchair.

Download our printable reading log template

There are many ways to grow reading excitement, but giving students a choice in reading material and how they want to share their reading are great first steps. Even though mandatory reading logs may not be effective, many students still enjoy tracking their reading.

If you’re looking for a FREE customizable reading log template, we have you covered! We’ve taken the best parts of our favorite reading logs and designed a new one to keep your students engaged and excited about reading. Invite them to participate, track and share the best moments from their favorite books.

Download your free reading log template now!

Mix in our fun reading log with the other activities in this article and discover what works best for your classroom. Whether you’re tracking, sharing or creating — books are the jumping-off point for so much learning! Grow your students’ love of reading and prepare them for all that’s yet to come.

Want more reading activities and strategies? Explore more literacy-based resources on the Prodigy blog. 

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