“Don’t Sign Your Kid’s Reading Log” — It Worked!

How can you take educational matters into your own hands? Read on!

Dear Free-Range Kids: Remember this post?

We just sent our 2nd grader to public school for the first time and she came home with a reading log to be signed each day as well as signing that she practiced her spelling words.
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We talked about it and decided to send the note to the teacher – almost word for word what was listed in the post including that we would be happy to have her sign her own paper.
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Today the teacher called to say that would be fine.  Hooray!
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That is so satisfying! And for those of you who don’t want to click, here is the note you might want to try, too! It was written by early childhood writer/speaker/wise woman Heather Shumaker, author of It’s OK Not to Share and It’s OK to Go Up the Slide:
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If parent signatures bother you, try explaining your concerns to the teacher. This got our family out of signatures successfully for many years.
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 “We’re involved. Trust us. We’ll read his daily planner. Signing it goes against the values of responsibility we’re trying to instill in our family.”
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Some teachers even stop insisting on signatures for the whole class when one family speaks up. If schools insist on a signature, suggest the right one. The child should be the one who signs her own reading log, not the adult.
 Let us know how it goes! – L.

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How not to make reading (and parenting) into a drag.

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61 Responses to “Don’t Sign Your Kid’s Reading Log” — It Worked!

  1. Helen Armstrong September 15, 2017 at 12:09 pm #

    I wish I had thought of this when my kids were in public school – like a lemming, I just went along with what us parents were requested to do by the teacher. Having said that, my kids’ grade 2 teacher, the one who had us sign off their reading and spelling lists, was fabulous, so I trusted the motivation for his requests implicitly.

  2. Linda September 15, 2017 at 12:10 pm #

    When my daughter, who was a voracious reader, was required to complete a reading log each night in first grade, it sucked all her joy out of her nightly reading.

    I wrote to the teacher saying that I wouldn’t be making her fill out the log, for that reason. I assured the teacher that my daughter was reading every day, and I wanted to encourage that love of reading in a more positive way. The teacher didn’t have any problem with it.

  3. lollipoplover September 15, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

    We certainly won’t win any parenting awards for how our family dealt with reading logs….teaching our kids how to sign our initials!

    It is refreshing to have our last year of elementary with no logs and a focus on individual responsiblity and leadership skills. They also are starting am and pm study halls to get homework done mostly within school hours with teachers available for questions! Best news ever…two weeks into school and no at home homework- she gets it done in school.

  4. lightbright September 15, 2017 at 12:25 pm #

    I took things even further. When my daughter entered Kindergarten, I was gobsmacked to learn that kids her age were getting homework packets. I ended up telling both her Kindergarten and first grade teachers that it ran counter to my educational philosophy. Then I asked what would happen if she didn’t do it. Both told me that there would be no repercussions; the homework was assigned only because parents were expecting it. It goes without saying that I never signed the reading logs.

    What we don’t realize is that children WANT to learn! Micromanaging the process only serves to suck the joy out of it.

    Did going without homework deprive her educationally? Quite the contrary! She emerged from the first grade receiving the award for Most Fluent Reader. She is now homeschooled. If anything, my challenge is to get her to stop reading long enough to do her chores and her long division!

  5. bmommyx2 September 15, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

    Our school, at least in the upper grades stopped asking parents to sign reading logs. My fifth grader no longer needs me to sign off on math tests or anything for that matter. I’m not sure if it’s his grade (5th) or all grades but he no longer even keeps a reading log which I think is good. To be honest I has no issue with signing these things. My son always forgets to give me stuff in his back pack & I will not resort to getting it myself, I do for my 1st grader. My boys are not good about giving me stuff & having to bring it back signed helps make sure they do. Honestly I don’t know if my 5th grader does his reading or studies his math, but I figure if he is falling behind in his school work the teacher will reach out or I will find out when his report card comes. I am not going to hover over him & micro manage his work. I do this is my 1st grader,but he needs help & he is behind struggling in school.

  6. Susan September 15, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

    I completely disagree with everyone here. My son loved to read every night as part of his log & I had no problem signing it. From baby to preschool, I read to him every night. In Kindergarten, he would read a page & then I would read a page…In grade school, Matt would read side by side with me & we would talk about his favorite parts of the book. Now, as a high school junior, he still pops in every night to read for 20 minutes before he heads to bed. It is my favorite time of day. We talk about anything & everything. I am so honored and happy to be close to my teenager & it all started with a reading log.

  7. Leigh September 15, 2017 at 12:48 pm #

    Better yet, get rid of reading logs altogether. Nothing takes the fun out of reading like being forced to do it daily and record what you did or that you did it. Ugh.

  8. Dienne September 15, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    Susan – I’m very happy for you and your son. But if he loved to read so much anyway, why did he need to fill out a reading log and why did you need to sign it? Why can’t you and he simply be trusted regarding this love of reading?

    The problem with reading logs is that the are extrinsic motivation. The message is basically, the only reason to read is to fill out the reading log (and, most likely, the only reason to fill out the reading log is so that you don’t get punished for not doing it). The message behind that is, reading must be really boring if you have to make me do it. And even for kids who actually like to read, filling out the damn log turns reading into a chore. Study after study after study shows that attaching extrinsic motivation (rewards or punishment) to anything decreases the intrinsic motivation a person already has for the activity. Something that was once done for pleasure becomes a chore that has to be done to get the reward/avoid the punishment.

    Alfie Kohn has a funny story in one of his books (can’t remember which one and I don’t have it with me, so I’m paraphrasing). A man has to walk home from work past a group of rude children who always make fun of him for being overweight and balding. So one day he gathers the kids and asks them to meet him the next day. If they’ll throw their best insults at him, he’ll give them a dollar each. The kids can’t believe their great fortune, so a huge gang of them are gathered the next day, all armed with their best. As promised, the man dutifully pays them each a dollar. He then tells them he’d like them to come back the next day, but he can only afford 50 cents. The kids are pretty bummed about the pay cut, but they show up again. The insults are a little lacking though. Then the man tells them that the next day he can only afford 25 cents each. The kids are really upset about this and only a small, practically lifeless crowd shows up. Then he tells the kids that he’d really like them to keep showing up and insulting him, but he can’t afford to pay them any more. “What?!” the kids respond, “you want us to do this for free?”

  9. Theresa Hall September 15, 2017 at 1:04 pm #

    When I was a kid they traded a pizza hut coupon for reading which appeal to me a lot. My favorite food and favorite activity talk about a great deal. Only one flaw reports of books had to be every other day or no coupon. And for a pizza loving book worm that was a pain in the neck.

  10. test September 15, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

    @Dienne I would hate having to report on what I am reading, especially in later age. I was reading a lot, but a lot of those books were the sort I would not want to admit I am reading in class.

    That being said, kids here don’t get daily reading songs and they read less then American or UK kids. There is no intrinsic motivation for read I them. And lacking intrising motivation, rewards actually can help you there. I mean, all the kids I know that are reading have parents who put a lot of work to it – oftentimes straightforward bribIng.

    The culture of reading is gone, there is no peer social pressure to read and when we want kids to read, we can’t expect intrinsic motivation to show up by itself.

  11. Dienne September 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

    Alfie Kohn has something to say about pizza for books programs too. He says we should give kids a book for every pizza they eat.

  12. James September 15, 2017 at 1:37 pm #

    Linda:

    “When my daughter, who was a voracious reader, was required to complete a reading log each night in first grade, it sucked all her joy out of her nightly reading.”

    I was fortunate–I came from a family that loves books. We all have a room dedicated to books in our houses. But I have seen so, so many of my peers’ love of reading absolutely destroyed by the obligatory reading we had to do in school. Between English classes, assigned reading for history/science/whatever other classes, the various “BookIt” and other reading programs, etc., it was nearly impossible for even a voracious reader to read for pleasure during the school year! And the choices available to us…..They thought THE HOBBIT was too advanced for a middle-schooler.

    I understand that schools want to push reading. It’s a critical skill, one that needs to be developed if you want to get anywhere in life. But what they’re doing is forcing kids to the standards of the lowest common denominator and killing any pleasure kids take in the subject. Best-case scenario is that these programs are irrelevant; the kid will be like me, lost whenever s/he is between books. Most likely scenario is that the kids will do the minimum, without it affecting them in any way.

  13. Donna September 15, 2017 at 1:38 pm #

    Of all my issues with school, this falls into my “not even worth worrying about for a second” category. My kid loves to read. My kid has always loved to read. We have been through different versions of reading logs – having them, not having them, book titles written down, book titles not written down, etc. – over the course of our 7 years of schooling thus far. No reading log in any iteration ever changed my daughter’s reading interest.

    Nor do I believe that me signing a log in any way interferes with the sense of responsibility that I am teaching my child. My child still has to decide to read a book, write it down and bring me her log to sign. If she choses not to do any one of these things, it is on her. I am not going to make sure she reads or keep track of her time or make sure she writes it down or ask for her log to sign. She is responsible for all of it.

    I think many of you would be much happier in life if you stopped sweating the small stuff and this is incredibly small stuff.

  14. Kathy September 15, 2017 at 1:43 pm #

    I had to sign something that was skin to a legal document that I would read to my kindergartner at least 30 minutes a day. Some nights we read 40 minutes, some nights 10 minutes, some nights none at all. I signed and returned but now kind of wish I hadn’t. I am a responsible parent but it is none of your business what is realistic on any given night. Next time, I will respond properly.

  15. Dienne September 15, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

    I think what constitutes “small stuff” is different for each kid and each family. It depends on the effects the reading log has on the kid. Many parents find their once-avid reader learning to despise reading because of the reading log. It depends on the consequences of doing or not doing the reading log for the kid. My daughter got a detention because during a week my parents were taking care of her, they didn’t know they were supposed to sign the reading log every night (and nor did she or we – it was the very first week of school and expectations were not clearly spelled out). So now she’s in a tizzy all the time about the damn reading log, which defeats the whole point of reading every night – it’s supposed to be enjoyable. It depends on what effects it has on the family. In busy families with multiple jobs, many kids, other commitments, etc., it can be very easy for all parties to forget something stupid like signing the damn log. My daughter will ask me to sign her log, but I’m in the middle of cooking, so I’ll tell her I’ll do it after dinner. But by after dinner we’ve both forgotten all about it and I’m waking up in the middle of the night in a panic or trying to sign the thing as we’re rushing out the door the next morning trying to be on time for school and work. It’s nothing but a stressor in our family and it offers nothing positive in return. Are there bigger things I have to worry about in life? Sure, but that doesn’t make this something “small”.

  16. Crazy Cat Lady September 15, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

    When my son was doing speech therapy and a class for writing at the local middle school, (we homeschooled then, ) the speech therapist made me sign a log that he had practiced the worksheet. Which we did…..every single day on the way to class. He got a good 20 minutes in every week day. But…as I was driving, I sometimes did not get to sign the sheet before dropping off.

    This meant that he got the same sheet again the next week. Even though in 7th grade, he told her he had practiced daily. Which was TOTALLY useless! Sure, it is good to practice skills you have mastered, but really….I wanted him to move on! Finally, at a meeting, I told her if she sent the same one home again, I was going to have him practice something else instead that might not relate to what she wanted. Something like say, “The Gettysburg Address.” I explained why I had not signed…just like texting, writing while driving is not safe.

    She never sent the same one again.

    But this is a good reminder. My youngest will be doing a history class second semester and I know the teacher wants stuff signed off. I think I am going to insist that he do it. Because yes, at 7th grade, he should be responsible for his own work. This does not mean I am hands off. I check the various computer programs for grades for my kids who are in school and make sure that work is done, that things get handed in. I have one with ADHD, who does his homework….but often forgets to turn it in if the teacher does not ask. So that means working with him to come up with ways to get him to remember to do what he needs to do.

  17. Mark September 15, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

    I don’t like the logs at all.
    Last year in Kindergarten we had them for about half the year. It was quite annoying to write all the titles and time down. Lots of titles since the books are small and the need for timing takes some of the fun out as well.
    They did get to claim prizes in school though for every 100 minutes of reading so we did stick to it.

  18. Andrew September 15, 2017 at 2:44 pm #

    Seriously, Dienne, your child was punished because the parents failed to fill in some bureaucratic paperwork? I think a full and frank exchange of views is required with the teachers.

    The most important thing is to foster a love of reading from a young age. Have books and other reading matter available in the house. Let them see you reading for pleasure. Read to them. Listen to them reading. And enjoy it. It is meant to be fun, not a chore.

  19. Dienne September 15, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

    No, Andrew, I don’t think. I know. I talked to the teacher about it. Her explanation was that in the first few weeks of school they are really strict about everything so that kids can “get in the habit”. Then after that they ease off a bit. Which is exactly backward – come down hard when kids haven’t had time to figure out which way is up, then ease off when they should know what they’re doing. Strikes me as the same reason a husband should make sure to beat his wife during the honeymoon – so she can get in the habit of obeying him. After a while he can back off and let a few little slips through, as long as the b**** still knows who’s boss.

  20. Backroads September 15, 2017 at 2:59 pm #

    *bounces*

    This year, school goal focuses changed just enough I was able to cast off requiring the damn reading log. (I am a 2nd grade teacher.)

    By golly, of course I want you reading at home. A lot.

    But I don’t want a tome on what book you read or for how long. Just read.

  21. Jay Pierson September 15, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

    I agree that the child should sign the log, but along with that the parent should be signing also. Not every household has 2 loving parents that are giving their children guidelines and a lot of parents are not involved with their children’s education. It is the parent’s responsibility to make sure that their child is doing their homework and signing a piece of paper is only a small sacrifice.

  22. test September 15, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

    I hated all activities that were supposed to be done daily. It makes the thIng unenjoyable. I tended to read a lot some day and not at all other days. If the book is interesting you want continue reading, but daily system motivates you to save it for tomorrow.. Mandatory reading with weekly or monthly iterval sounds much better.

  23. Rebel mom September 15, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

    Read Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn before you get behind reading logs. I read more than anyone I know and thank goodness these dumb things weren’t around when I was a kid. I read then and now bc I enjoy it. Not for pizza, prizes or to show off. It’s a solitary activity so it’s no ones business what I read or how often. If you want to instill a love of reading you’ll read to your child and have lots of good books about. Reading logs won’t make bad parents any better, many will just lie and sign it. If you care, you care. If you don’t a piece of paper won’t change it.

  24. Dienne September 15, 2017 at 3:55 pm #

    Jay Pierson – how does making parents sign a reading log solve the problem of “Not every household has 2 loving parents that are giving their children guidelines and a lot of parents are not involved with their children’s education.”? Parents who are too busy/disorganized/drunk/whatever to attend to their child’s education are not likely to be swayed by having to sign a reading log. Either they’ll ignore the requirements, in which case Little Johnny will have to serve a detention/miss getting prizes/whatever because his parents never sign his reading log, or else the parents might just experience it as yet another stressor in their already stressed lives, in which case maybe they’ll take it out on Johnny. In either case, I don’t see how Johnny benefits. If Johnny’s parents are too busy or dysfunctional to take an interest in his education, the best (only?) hope is that Johnny becomes inspired to take an interest in his own education, which is not going to happen by force or control, but rather by Johnny being encouraged and supported to try new things which might take off for him.

  25. Backroads September 15, 2017 at 4:04 pm #

    If the parents are not very involved in their child’s education, they’re not involved enough to sign a piece of paper.

    Far better to discuss ways for parents to become naturally involved, or for students to succeed despite disinterested parents. And they’re not necessarily disinterested. They may have too much on their place, or lack the literacy to be “sign a paper” involved, or even be great parents that have a culture dissonance with our standard education.

  26. Donna September 15, 2017 at 5:49 pm #

    “which defeats the whole point of reading every night – it’s supposed to be enjoyable.”

    No, the point of a reading every night is to enhance children”s reading skills and expose children to a greater number of words. Enjoyment is irrelevant.

    The reality is that reading is absolutely no different than any other activity that exists in the human experience – some people enjoy it and some people don’t. This will be true whether teachers assign reading logs or not. And the groups that enjoy and don’t enjoy will remain fairly stagnant regardless. Teachers are well aware of this fact and are not using reading logs under some false notion that children who previously detested reading will magically develop a love for it if they are forced into doing it every day. They are using reading logs simply to get kids to read every day because daily reading has value whether you enjoy it or not. Much like exercise.

    “My daughter will ask me to sign her log, but I’m in the middle of cooking, so I’ll tell her I’ll do it after dinner. But by after dinner we’ve both forgotten all about it and I’m waking up in the middle of the night in a panic or trying to sign the thing as we’re rushing out the door the next morning trying to be on time for school and work.”

    A simply solution if you are truly waking up in the middle of the night in a panic over a reading log is to just sign the thing when first presented to you. Seriously, I am a single parent with a far more than full time job involving a large amount of evening/weekend work with a kid, 2 dogs, 2 cats and a house to care for single-handedly and signing reading logs have never generated this insane level of drama.

    And isn’t your kid NOT forgetting about homework until it is completely done exactly the responsibility we are trying to teach our children? The excuse of a “I forgot my reading log because I ate dinner” would not get far at my house. If she asks me to sign her reading log at a time when I can’t, it is her responsibility to remember to ask me another time or suffer the consequences of not doing so. I am not going to hunt it down or lose any sleep over it because her homework is not my responsibility. Same with field trip permission slips, report cards, behavior reports and anything else I have to sign.

  27. Roberta September 15, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

    When my son struggled with his reading log, I decided to turn it into my reading log instead. Every day I wrote in his log what I read to him, had him write a few words about it, and then sent it in. We never told the teacher that I was the one doing the reading, and never even pointed out to my son that that wasn’t the way it was supposed to work. That way he felt like he was keeping up but reading did not become a chore for him.

  28. Donna September 15, 2017 at 6:04 pm #

    This is not to say that I find reading logs valuable for my family. They are unnecessary busy work for my child who reads far more than 20 minutes most days. However, I also understand that (a) if I choose to send my child to school for an education, my child is not entitled to an education tailor-made for just her; (b) schools must educate ALL children and some children will not willingly read and do benefit from being forced to read for 20 minutes a day; (c) schools have absolutely no way to confirm that students are actually reading 20 minutes a day other than to rely on the parents; and (d) life involves a certain amount of annoying busy work and filling out a form is not going to kill my child and signing my name is not going to kill me.

  29. Donna September 15, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

    “Far better to discuss ways for parents to become naturally involved,”

    The point of the signature is not to get parent’s involved in their child’s education. It is to ensure that the reading gets done. The thought being that a large number of parents will actually make the child read before they sign, thus achieving the sole goal of this assignment – child reads for 20 minutes, 5 days a week.

  30. mark September 15, 2017 at 6:17 pm #

    i’m concerned as w/ other ‘homework’ demands that even the most devoted kids can’t accomplish on their own. kids w/ parents off working, playing, incarcerated, dead, are already plenty disadvantaged. why worsen this? — including dangers of such kids feeling un[der]loved, neglected — even when one or more parents are devoting themselves the best they can. homework should be for kids; NOT for parents.

  31. Backroads September 15, 2017 at 6:59 pm #

    “””
    The point of the signature is not to get parent’s involved in their child’s education. It is to ensure that the reading gets done. The thought being that a large number of parents will actually make the child read before they sign, thus achieving the sole goal of this assignment – child reads for 20 minutes, 5 days a week.”””

    Unfortunately, at least at my school, the proven result is not that we proved home reading was done, but that parents signed a piece of paper. Literally all we can prove. Many parents can’t read English or any language at all.

    I can guarantee my students read 20 minutes in class. Reading done.

  32. Dienne September 15, 2017 at 7:07 pm #

    “Literally all we can prove.”

    Not even sure you can prove that much. You can prove that a piece of paper was signed. By whom is still open to question. I like your solution of 20 minutes of reading in class. Wish all schools would take this approach.

  33. KumquatWriter September 15, 2017 at 8:40 pm #

    My reader started refusing to read when it was “homework” to do for 20 minutes a night. Instead, we checked off every day on each monthly calendar and kid and I both signed it. Teacher was fine with it – she knew he was reading well above grade level and agreed that the point wasn’t to be to make him read LESS.

  34. J September 15, 2017 at 9:21 pm #

    “No, the point of a reading every night is to enhance children’s reading skills and expose children to a greater number of words. Enjoyment is irrelevant.”

    And that, right there, is what’s wrong with our system of standard schooling. It teaches kids that it doesn’t matter in the slightest what they like or what they are interested in, or what they would like to read, etc… People don’t tend to retain information that they are not interested in learning. School promotes “shallow learning”, committing things to memory for a temporary period of time, just until the test is over, and then you can sigh in relief and clear some space for the next unit, or chapter, or whatever other block of information the teacher says is next. Nothing can convince me that this kind of learning can possibly be called “a good education”.

    Free-Range Kids introduced me to Peter Gray’s work, and I’ve become very intrigued with his views on school, and the studies he references to back him up. It has really changed the way I think about public schooling, learning and teaching. I highly recommend his blog on the Psychology Today website. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201612/why-our-coercive-system-schooling-should-topple

  35. Jon September 15, 2017 at 10:23 pm #

    Having a signed reading log seemed good for first grade, to ensure that every kid is reading or given reading time by their parents. After that hopefully the kid wants to read and it isn’t necessary. By the way, as I’ve said before homeschooling is the opposite of free-range parenting. Public schools are the best!

  36. Crazy Cat Lady September 15, 2017 at 10:59 pm #

    Oh Jon, you make me laugh! “By the way, as I’ve said before homeschooling is the opposite of free-range parenting.”

    So….Free Range Parenting is about:

    -Letting your kids have time to play by having less homework when they are younger as studies so it does very little for the kids.

    – Allowing kids to choose their own activities during their free time so that every moment is not taken up with adult led activities.

    – Having appropriate recess time

    – Kids doing age appropriate activities like working with power tools, riding bikes, climbing trees and riding horses

    And, probably, so much more. I teach my kids, we get done in a short time….sometimes we do things together, but they also have time to pursue their own interests to read what they want and to do things that they want.. And if you think “homeschooling” means kids stay home all day…let me tell you…they do not.

    Public schools can be great. But so can charter schools, private religious schools, private non-religious schools, and homeschools. What it really boils down to is the child getting a quality education so that when they are adults they can do what they want with their lives, and have had the opportunity to try things that were a little scary, to fail at some things, to succeed at some things and know how to behave as an adult in modern society.

  37. meg September 15, 2017 at 11:23 pm #

    “By the way, as I’ve said before homeschooling is the opposite of free-range parenting. Public schools are the best!”

    That’s a silly assertion. It’s like saying purple is the opposite of three; one is a parenting philosophy and the other is an educational choice.

    But since you are attempting to compare the two…during any given “school day” my homeschooled 7- and 8-year-old might walk to the library on their own, run over to Tim Hortons for an Iced Capp, or – in a typical homeschool park meet-up – spend hours playing with their (also homeschooled) friends while we moms chat and drink coffee. Meanwhile, their public-schooled friends can’t get up to sharpen a pencil without getting permission from the teacher first.

    Which isn’t to say that public-schooled kids can’t be raised free-range, or that homeschooled kids always are. I know a few helicopter-parented homeschoolers, for sure, and I know a lot of public-schooled kids who are free range. But that free ranging doesn’t happen during school hours.

  38. James Pollock September 16, 2017 at 12:13 am #

    The starting point, I would think, would be going to talk to the teacher, and asking about what goals they’re trying to accomplish, and THEN deciding if the methods being used are actually effective with regard to your specific chiild. If they are, sign the forms. If they aren’t, work out an alternative approach that does.
    It turns out that teachers are not, as a general rule, soulless automatons of the mindless bureaucratic state. If they’re asking for reading logs, there’s a reason why they’re doing this. (My kid’s school didn’t, so I’m making some guesses as to why a teacher might ask for signed reading logs).

    If the point is to get the parent (you) involved in your children’s education, the fact that you ARE involved should be mostly settled by the fact that you’re there, talking about elements of your children’s education. If you have a reason to not want to do it (pick from any of the good ones already suggested here), say so.

    If the point is to get your child lots of reading practice, and the kid reads anyway, voluntarily, say so, ask if you can attest, right now, that your child will do plenty of reading practice, thus saving the busywork of recording and signing logs, giving more time for reading practice. (I mean, you want to suggest that if the teacher notices a dip in performance that might be aided by more practice, they should notify you and you will take steps to address that problem.

    If the point is to get your child to practice, not reading, but time management, setting aside time to complete homework because they’re starting to get old enough to where homework will be an increasing burden (this might be something that showed up in the last year of elementary school, because in middle school they’ll be given homework on a regular basis. If that were the purpose, the fact that it’s busywork that doesn’t actually serve an important educational goal for your child, might still be beneficial.

    The point is, you and the kid’s teacher(s) are supposed to be working as a team.

    “schools have absolutely no way to confirm that students are actually reading 20 minutes a day other than to rely on the parents”

    It does not make any difference whatsoever if the school confirms that students are actually reading 20 minutes a day, to the school or the child. Either the kid is doing it, and reaps the benefits, or the kid is not doing it, and doesn’t reap the benefits, or the kid does it sometimes, gaining some benefit, but not consistently, so not as much benefit as they could have achieved. The benefits of reading proficiency come from reading proficiency, not from the school’s paperwork about it
    Schools divide elementary students into those who read above grade level, those who read at grade level, those who read below grade level, and those who don’t read at all, because they’re still learning English. If your kid is in the “above grade level” group, they school is not going to suddenly start treating your kid differently because they didn’t turn in a reading log, or turned one in that was filled out but not signed by mom or dad. They’re going to keep trying to find something for your kid to read that will keep them wanting and liking to read. If your kid reads below grade level, they are not going to start treating your kid differently because they didn’t turn in a reading log… they’re ALREADY trying to figure out how to get your kid to read better, and they are acutely aware that not reading well and not liking to read are linked to each other in a self-reinforcing spiral. They’re going to keep trying to find something your kid wants and likes to read. (If you’re going to guess that the group that’s right at grade level is going to have lessons that try to find things they want and like to read, well, yeah. The strategies applied to each grouping will be different, but ultimately, the student’s success (or lack thereof) in reading proficiency come from the student’s own efforts and natural inclinations.

    Psst: Jon was being sarcastic.

  39. Donald September 16, 2017 at 1:40 am #

    I don’t think that very many schools would protest if the parent gives consent for the child to sign the reading log.

    The world revolves around the legal system and CYA in preparation of an imaginary future court case. The whole idea behind requiring a signature is to have a paper trail. Whether or not the parents sign it or the child signs it is irrelevant. The school has their paper trail. A parent will have a hard time if they try to sue the school for not teaching their daughter to read in either case. This is because the parent gave permission for the child to sign their own reading log.

    This is why I made an earlier suggestion of a ‘permit’ that allows children to wait in cars. In order to get the permit that is displayed in your car so that the police and CPS can see it, you have to fill out paperwork. THIS IS THE KEY! This means that the government is exempt from responsibility because the parents signed a waiver.

    I think the city would love this idea. They would jump at the chance if it means that they can legally shrug off responsibility.

  40. Katie G September 16, 2017 at 6:31 am #

    @Helen Armstrong
    How neat that there was a man teaching second grade! Kids do so well with that change of pace if he’s a good teacher.

    Incidentally, I knew a lovely lady with your same name.
    -Katie G

  41. Katie G September 16, 2017 at 8:00 am #

    I agree with the previous poster that Donna is way, way, off track in saying that “enjoyment is irrelevant”. Would you say that about any activity that [ought to ] continues into adulthood? That is one of the major problems in the world today- not reading for understanding the world and human nature.

  42. JHo September 16, 2017 at 11:10 am #

    This drives me crazy. There are so many more efficient ways to communicate with parents, text, email, all sorts of apps. The planner is a dinosaur and I refuse to sign it. I also reuse to fill out the reading log because my kids already have to take weekly A.R. Tests (a software quiz program that verifies a student has read, and assigns point value based on difficulty level) so the teachers know they’re reading at home. Stop making parents do redundant work!

  43. Anna September 16, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

    @James Pollock: “It turns out that teachers are not, as a general rule, soulless automatons of the mindless bureaucratic state. If they’re asking for reading logs, there’s a reason why they’re doing this.”

    News flash from a former teacher here. No, it doesn’t make them “soulless automatons of the mindless bureaucratic state,” but I can tell you that many MANY things teachers (and schools) do are done for the same reason many human beings do what they do – because everyone else is doing it. Examples are endless: the widely parroted mantra of “10 minutes of homework per grade level per night” which is based on zero research or rationale, the cookie-cutter worksheets photocopied wholesale from generic teacher handout resources, with only the most diffuse pedagogical value, the endless science projects pasted up on display boards as if that were somehow a key element of science… A huge percentage of what most early childhood educators do is completely imitative of whatever they see everybody else doing. Why do you think every single kindergartner in the country brings home a handprint construction paper turkey at Thanksgiving? Because it achieves instructional goals and teaches artistic skills and creativity so well? To a great extent, I’d say reading logs are just another example of the same phenomenon.

  44. jimc5499 September 16, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

    With this being the start of a new school year, I’d like to give one piece of advice. Instruct your child NOT to sign anything that the school gives them without bringing it to you for review. When they do bring something to you make sure that you fully understand it before letting them sign it. If your child brings something home for you to sign, read it carefully and make sure that YOU understand it before signing. Schools are using things like Codes of Conduct to make an end run around you and your child’s rights. Sometimes signing these gives the School authorization for things like drug tests, searches of your child’s body and belongings and other things that you wouldn’t permit if you were asked for permission.

    These “Codes” are not only in effect during school hours or at school functions. Courts have upheld these “Codes” being in effect 24-7 even during Summer or holiday breaks. A few years ago, students from a school went on a CHURCH sponsored trip to Germany, in July with their parents. While they were there pictures were taken of them drinking beer. Under Germany’s laws it was perfectly legal. The Church posted pictures of the trip on its website. A School Administrator saw the pictures. The students were identified and suspended. The Parents had to go to Court to have the suspensions lifted, but, the students were not allowed to participate in extracurricular activities. This caused several of them not to be accepted at their first choice of College.

    My Nephew was suspended for 10 days for smoking. It didn’t matter that it was on a Saturday, in his yard and that he was 18. A teacher saw him and reported it.

    There was a recent news report about 75 high school students being forced to have a blood test because a beer can was found under the bleachers at a football game. People were outraged and calling for the school district to be sued. The district will not be sued. The Students consented to the test when they signed their “Code”.

  45. SKL September 16, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

    I was all about this from a theoretical perspective. But with my own kids, I found that it was easier for me to get them to do xyz if I could use my signature as a carrot.

    I don’t recall reading being something I had to sign about. Their school uses Accelerated Reader, which tests their comprehension on books they claim to have read. So no point demanding parental proofs of that.

    I did have to sign that they practiced math facts one or two years. I followed my kids’ lead on how they wanted to do that. Sometimes it was me telling them to count by 3s and 4s while we were driving somewhere.

    And one or two years, I had to sign their assignment book every day.

    I wish I could say that my kids were so responsible and independent that I never felt the need to look at their assignment books, but that would be a lie. 😛

  46. SKL September 16, 2017 at 1:52 pm #

    Whether or not a mandatory requirement increases or decreases how much and how enthusiastically a kid reads depends on the child.

    One of mine has been a reading fiend since long before entering her first classroom, and she has always read far more than she documented for the school, which was far beyond what was asked. So I doubt the documentation requirement was demotivating.

    My other kid has never been a great lover of books, but they have grown on her as she’s been required to read over time. I did stop requiring her to read beyond the minimum school requirement at some time last year, but she continued. However, that was not because of “freedom” as much as the fact that she could attend the ice cream party at the end of the year if she met the school’s stretch goal. 😛

    For my second kid, requiring her to read from about ages 5-8 helped her by ultimately making reading reasonably easy for her. She is not a natural reader so if she had not practiced a lot, it would be a chore, possibly for her whole life. She has lost nothing by having read a number of books at those ages. It would be worse for her to have to remediate now with all her homework, sports, etc. competing for time.

    So I can’t agree with “don’t make them read or reading won’t be fun.” How’s it going to be fun if you can’t do it well enough to keep up with your peers? I have a dyslexic dad, so I know how much kids suffer if they are behind in reading as they get older.

  47. Theresa Hall September 16, 2017 at 9:33 pm #

    James just because a person isn’t fluent in English doesn’t mean they can’t read it just means English isn’t the language they are fluent in. I couldn’t read anything that isn’t English but that doesn’t mean I can’t read.

  48. SKL September 17, 2017 at 5:47 am #

    While I enjoy reading and would like my kids to enjoy it, if my kids don’t enjoy reading they still need to learn how to do it. I think that may be what Donna meant when she said “enjoyment is irrelevant.”

    It just isn’t true that a kid who is left to his own free-range devices will always end up enjoying reading. Even when I was a kid and they didn’t have reading logs etc., some of my siblings read for pleasure and others did not. My oldest brother was one of the latter (despite being a gifted / advanced learner). Just didn’t like it. Kinda like I didn’t like The Brady Bunch. 😛

    If my kid doesn’t love books as an adult, oh well, but if she can’t read her work assignments etc., big problem.

  49. BL September 17, 2017 at 7:38 am #

    “Kinda like I didn’t like The Brady Bunch. ”

    Please please please tell me nobody ever had to fill out a school log for watching the Brady Bunch.

    Please.

  50. AmyP September 17, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    I have never signed one. Ever. And I didn’t send in anything I just didn’t sign it. The teacher kept circling it as if to remind me. One day we had a report card conference (we had to do it in order to get the report cards…sigh) and the teacher brought it up. My response was “it’s my daughters responsibility to make sure her homework gets done, not mine.” It was never brought up again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that parents shouldn’t be involved, but if you have to constantly nag or check up on them to make sure they are doing what their supposed to this is not teaching them responsibility. Reviewing their grades, asking about their day, and a check in now and then asking if they’ve done their homework should suffice. If they get detention or miss recess for not doing it that’s a good consequence for them.

  51. John C. Randolph September 17, 2017 at 1:42 pm #

    More to the point, as an agent of the state, if a teacher demands my signature on ANYTHING, he or she can go pound sand.

    If I sign or endorse any document, it is at my sole discretion.

    -jcr

  52. Mya Greene September 17, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

    Unfortunately, this practice takes place at my university, but in a slightly different manner. Instead of the parents having to sign things, professors take their place! In order to be absent from orchestra, for instance, the private instrumental instructor has to sign a form of approval, and this form the professor signed then goes to a separate comittee who then votes on whether to excuse your absence. The chamber music program requires rehearsal and coaching logs every semester, and the penalty for not turning them in is a whole letter grade deduction.

    One teacher I had for ear training required signed practice ( for those whose grade fell below 92 ) and outside concert attendance forms ( Ugh! ). Since the practice logs for struggling students were online, he often monitored how much students practiced through the platform, and shamed students who didn’t meet his standards.

  53. Emily September 17, 2017 at 4:41 pm #

    >>Unfortunately, this practice takes place at my university, but in a slightly different manner. Instead of the parents having to sign things, professors take their place! In order to be absent from orchestra, for instance, the private instrumental instructor has to sign a form of approval, and this form the professor signed then goes to a separate comittee who then votes on whether to excuse your absence. The chamber music program requires rehearsal and coaching logs every semester, and the penalty for not turning them in is a whole letter grade deduction.

    One teacher I had for ear training required signed practice ( for those whose grade fell below 92 ) and outside concert attendance forms ( Ugh! ). Since the practice logs for struggling students were online, he often monitored how much students practiced through the platform, and shamed students who didn’t meet his standards.<<

    Okay, some of that makes sense, because it's pretty futile to have "trio" rehearsal with only two people, but as for the practicing thing, more isn't necessarily always better, and that mentality can lead to overuse injuries that can require long breaks from playing or singing, and in some extreme cases, can even require surgery, like a friend of mine who played the same instrument as me (clarinet), and actually needed surgery on her wrist because of tendonitis. Also, what's stopping individual students from simply lying about how much they practice on their own? Either way, that system seems to be designed to make people hate music. What university is this at?

  54. SKL September 17, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

    If I refused to sign certain school papers, my kids would be punished at school. So, it’s their responsibility to make sure I sign it, but I will sign it because I don’t want my kids missing recess etc.

    We’re mostly way past the “mom signs the log” days (those were mainly grades 2-3), but every once in a while a teacher uses that method to force compliance or to make sure the parent is aware of something.

    And my kids go to a private school, so theoretically they could kick us out if we got too cocky.

  55. Mya Greene September 17, 2017 at 7:24 pm #

    Emily,

    This is the University of Southern California. The one positive in their approach when it comes to monitoring students, is that they don’t allow parents anywhere near it. If a parent wants to speak to any university staff member regarding their child, the student has to sign a release form for each staff member. They also have identification barriers that are very difficult for parents to clear, who want to access student records, which often require passwords, security questions, and identification numbers. Sometimes, the parents just get ignored altogether, even when they physically show up to talk to someone.

    To answer your other question, yes students lie about their practice. I have known classmates who decide to arbitrarily fill in a weekly time slot for their chamber music rehearsals, whether they have occurred or not. For chamber music, this is pretty easy since there is only one required performance per semester. For ear training, since the tests were weekly, it showed a bit more. I was lucky not to be subject to professorial monitoring since my average remained above a 92 the whole semester I took it, and very few people knew that I was basically winging it most of the time.

    But when it comes to injuries, the program is very sensitive to the student’s needs, and makes sure they don’t overdo it too soon after they can start playing again. Students with injuries are allowed lots of accommodations.

  56. Kay September 18, 2017 at 12:46 am #

    We had this battle ourselves and made our boys sign their reading logs and/or agendas. We had the same rationale, that it was teaching our children they weren’t responsible for their own work. Glad other parents are seeing this. I don’t know how our own parents would have been able to deal with this level of involvement the elementary schools expect of parents.

  57. Emily September 18, 2017 at 11:13 am #

    >>Emily,

    This is the University of Southern California. The one positive in their approach when it comes to monitoring students, is that they don’t allow parents anywhere near it. If a parent wants to speak to any university staff member regarding their child, the student has to sign a release form for each staff member. They also have identification barriers that are very difficult for parents to clear, who want to access student records, which often require passwords, security questions, and identification numbers. Sometimes, the parents just get ignored altogether, even when they physically show up to talk to someone.

    To answer your other question, yes students lie about their practice. I have known classmates who decide to arbitrarily fill in a weekly time slot for their chamber music rehearsals, whether they have occurred or not. For chamber music, this is pretty easy since there is only one required performance per semester. For ear training, since the tests were weekly, it showed a bit more. I was lucky not to be subject to professorial monitoring since my average remained above a 92 the whole semester I took it, and very few people knew that I was basically winging it most of the time.

    But when it comes to injuries, the program is very sensitive to the student’s needs, and makes sure they don’t overdo it too soon after they can start playing again. Students with injuries are allowed lots of accommodations.<<

    It seems kind of strange to me–I also went to two different universities for music–a smaller school first, and then a bigger one–and, although there were definitely rules about rehearsal attendance for large ensembles (basically, you had to be there unless you had a good reason not to), and small ensembles, if you were taking chamber ensemble as a class (once a week independently, and once a week with the chamber ensemble coach), and mandatory concert attendance, we weren't required to log our practice hours. We had other ways of measuring that–juries, studio recitals, solo recitals for third year and up, and just day-to-day, our private teachers and our ensemble coaches could tell if we weren't practicing enough, or if we weren't practicing effectively, or if we were trying, but still struggling with something. If people obviously weren't trying, then yes, they'd get called on it, but our profs didn't try to monitor the hours we spent practicing, any more than they tried to monitor the hours we spent studying, and I'm glad they didn't, because that way, my music was ultimately MY thing, and not anyone else's.

  58. Eric S September 18, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

    Awesome! And even better, the school didn’t make a stink about it.

  59. James September 19, 2017 at 8:22 pm #

    JHo: “This drives me crazy. There are so many more efficient ways to communicate with parents, text, email, all sorts of apps.”

    For that matter, parents could actually (GASP!) talk to their children! My parents knew my sisters and I read because we’d discuss the books with each other and our parents. Okay, sure, this probably annoyed them when our primary topics of conversation were Dr. Seuss and the like, but they were involved, and encouraged us to explore reading. They suggested books (and eventually we returned the favor). It didn’t have to take long, either–just “That looks like a good book; what’s it about?”

    If you need an app or sign-off sheet to demonstrate that learning is occurring, learning is not occurring.

  60. BA September 24, 2017 at 5:12 pm #

    @Theresa Hall, Book It! 😀 I remember the Book It program fondly. Loved getting my little personal pizza. I was a big reader too.