Mistake #1: Required Reading Levels
- Students were asking me if they were “allowed” to read a book because it was slightly above or below their assigned level.
- Students were telling me they really wanted to read book #3 in a series, but they couldn’t because it was too low… even though they had already read books 1 & 2, and were really into the storyline.
- In that Google survey I mentioned earlier, a student’s answer about what he disliked about reading was, “that lexile points are required for reading and I want to read FREELY.“
It really got me thinking… Don’t I want to read freely too? Do I look at a reading level before I pick up a book? How many of the books I read on my own are “too low” for me? (Spoiler alert… all of them!) Did you know that most adult novels are written around an 800-1000 Lexile level? That’s somewhere in the 5-7th grade range. Does that mean I shouldn’t read The Pelican Brief (660 Lexile), The Girl on the Train (760 Lexile), or The Great Gatsby (820 Lexile)? Of course not!
Mistake #2: Nightly Reading Logs & Responses
- Some kids barely even saw their parents at night due to work schedules and such, so the parents didn’t really know if they had read or not.
- Some parents would sign the form every day regardless of whether reading had been done.
- I was accidentally encouraging students and parents to collude together to lie to me!
- Reading response answers were often forced, and students weren’t really reflecting on what they’d read.
- Students who were reading were only reading exactly up to the required minutes, and not a second over… even if that meant they didn’t finish their chapter.
So I did something crazy… I stopped requiring a reading log! I teach my students at the beginning of the year how important reading on their own is. I tell them that I expect them to read at least 20 minutes a day. We talk a lot about how fun reading can be. I introduce them to a wide variety of books. I make sure they have plenty of chances to check books out from my classroom library and our school library. But there’s no required reading log in my room anymore.
Mistake #3: Test-based Reading Programs & Reading Goals
- “I would definitely still read [if we didn’t have a reading goal]. I don’t like the pressure being put on me to make my reading goal.”
- “I read a lot of books that don’t have Reading Counts tests and then I don’t get points for my goal.”
- “What I like is getting a reward for making a reading goal, what I dislike is having to read books with Reading Counts tests so I can get points.”
- “I don’t read books unless they have a test because it’s a waste of time if it’s not helping me meet my goal.”
- “Reading is fun but reading goals are NOT.”
Those last two slayed me! I don’t know which student wrote the last one, because the surveys were anonymous, but this is a kid who likes to read, and I’m taking all the fun out of it by requiring tests and points in order to make a goal.