The Secret of the Dreaded Reading Log

by Melissa on April 26, 2010

“Reading logs have done more to kill the love of reading than any invention in the world, ever.” –Danny 6th grade

Does your child have to keep a reading log for homework? There’s a theory behind it. We know that the more time kids spend reading the better it is for them all around, so teachers assign silent reading, and then ask kids to write a summary of what they read.

Some adults call it accountability. Some kids call it torture.

Danny (quoted above) loved reading, but





I can’t say I blame him.

When I read for pleasure, the last think I would ever want to do is write a summary of what I read. Ugh.

When Danny was in junior high, he began reading The Lord of the Rings. He hated those reading logs, but loved the books. I mean, they’re still on the quest. Boring to write about when you don’t want to put the book down.

Mr. Creativity himself found a way to make them bearable. His keen sense of imagination helped him to create a whole scenario starring . . . J.R.R. Tolkien himself!

Danny decided that ol’ J.R.R. was living in a cottage with his wife, and the thatched roof needed fixing.

Danny was convinced that J. R.R. told his wife he’d be happy to finish it just “as soon as I get this done, dear.” Which is why he went on and on. An, thus, Lord of the Rings trilogy was born.

Instead of a log, he began to create  a dialogue between J.R.R. and his wife about “getting that roof fixed.” It totally changed how he viewed the log.

How valuable!

How creative!

How delightful, as a teacher, to read about how a student is so inspired by a novel it influences their writing!

So, if you have a kid who has to do this task and is hating it, I’d like to give you some ideas and suggestions inspired by Danny and his mom.

If you advocate for your child like Leslie did for Danny, and the teacher is receptive maybe she’ll let your child do one of these alternatives to the reading log. And, hopefully, the reading log experience won’t “kill the love of reading” for your child, like it almost did for Danny.

  • What techniques does the author use to “hook” you and draw you into the story?
  • What’s the best part of the story? Why? The worst/most boring part? Why
  • Which characters do you like? Which do you dislike? Tell why.
  • How does the author get you to feel close to the characters?
  • Hypothesize what would happen if different characters had interacted.
  • Change one character in a significant way and draw a flowchart which predicts how this change would affect the other characters or the plot.
  • Using cartoon format, create a dialogue between you and one of the characters in which you try to convince the character to behave differently.
  • Create illustrations for a story or book that doesn’t have them.
  • Write a similar story.
  • Write a new ending.
  • Write a new chapter to insert in the novel.
  • Write the same story set in a different time period.
  • Invent your own activity. Discuss it with the teacher before you start working on it.

If this works for you, please write us or comment and let us know how it works out! Or if you have other ideas, please share.

Melissa is the founder of Tandem Teaching and teaches in the inner-city. She blogs weekly about tips parents can implement to enhance their connection with their children and ways to bring out their children’s inherent gifts. Contact her for a private consulting session.


Katie April 26, 2010 at 6:39 pm

What a fantastic idea! And one that simultaneously helps hone a kid’s analytical and reading comprehension skills- not to mention fosters creativity! Another great example of how a teacher or parent thinking outside the box and taking the time to treat the child as an individual with unique needs can be so productive- and and can shape the child’s attitude toward learning, in turn promoting their long-term success. I absolutely love it. Way to go, Danny… and Melissa!

Pamela April 27, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Blerg! I cannot tell you how much I disliked reading logs. This is such a great (and simple) way of letting a children navigate their education; while of course staying within the parameters of a predetermined curriculum. There were so many books I loved that I never had that chance to explore in this way. I hope more parents take this advice and consequently give their children greater intellectual freedom.

Jim April 29, 2010 at 2:33 am

These are great tips. I especially like the “write a new ending” one. Who doesn’t like to write their own endings? As much as we love reading the ending, we always imagine how we’d DO IT.