At the beginning of our new unit I made a choice to log my reading just like my students have to. We were having serious problems remembering to log our reading and I didn’t think my students understood why they were doing it. We hadn’t analyzed our reading logs for a while and the purpose wasn’t obvious to them. We needed a boost and we needed it fast.
One afternoon while sitting in my classroom thinking about the problem I had my “ah-ha moment.” The words of my old literacy coach came into my head,
“If you’re not modeling it, you’re not teaching it.”
There was my problem! I had never kept a reading log. I had never logged in and out each day like they do. I wasn’t showing them how I log my reading all the time as a reader. This was the missing piece!
As a reader in the “real world” I log my reading all the time. In fact, I have a book where I keep track of books I have read. I write down quotes I love. I rate the books I read and write why I liked or didn’t like them. I abandon books all the time only to come back to them later. I even keep track of how many pages I read. I have also recently gotten onto Goodreads to track myself as a reader. I log my reading all the time and my students had no idea.
The next morning I made myself a book bag with a Reading Log and as my students logged in, so did I. A majority of them noticed and came to peer over my shoulder as I wrote. I didn’t say anything to them. I just let them make their own observations. After my minilesson I sent my students off to do the important work of biography readers and I sat down at my table and read for the first 5 minutes. When I finished reading I logged out, put my book and reading log in my book bag, placed it on a shelf and began conferring with readers. At night I brought my book bag home and read for 15 minutes.
Each morning my students would come in and check my reading log. They were making sure I was doing my homework! They also started to notice things about me as a reader. “Ms. Rice do you notice that you are reading too slow. I don’t think you are reading a just right book,” one of them pointed out one day after reading. They were right! I wasn’t reading fast enough. From this comment we were able to sit down and have a conversation about it. I admitted that I wasn’t reading very fast because I constantly had to reread. Biographies are a hard genre for me because I can’t stay focused. Some of them were a little confused that I was admitting a flaw of mine. It’s not every day that teachers willingly admit weaknesses to students. Some of them blurted out, “ME TOO!” They were starting to see that even adults struggle from time to time.
From this point we have been able to have honest conversations about ourselves as readers. When students start to see that even their teacher isn’t the perfect reader all the time, they are more likely to admit their own faults and work to improve upon them. There were even days when I forgot my book bag at school. I learned that it really isn’t as easy as I thought it was bringing a bookbag back and forth. We had more honest conversations where I was told I needed to “work on being more responsible.”
Students need to see their teachers and adults around them immersed in the work of readers. Adults read all the time but children rarely get a glimpse into the world of adult readers. They need to see that adults face the same struggles as children and adults aren’t always perfect readers. I challenge you to log your reading with your students. Allow them to see you struggle and abandon books. Allow them to see you forget to do your reading and even forget your reading log. Children do as you do not as you say. Show them all readers have faults and they will be more willing to expose their own and improve upon them.