Thursday, October 29, 2015

Liar, Liar

(Reading Logs on Fire)

If I had a penny for every reading log entry I’ve lied on so far in my children’s elementary school career, I’d be able to pay for their first semester of books in college.

Okay, obviously, I exaggerate. I also do the common core math homework with my kids, so I can estimate in my head. I’d probably only be able to buy a Little Caesar’s HOT-N-READY Pizza.

But I stand by the premise of my point. I lie. On reading logs. A Lot.

And, from a recent Facebook conversation I had with friends, so does everyone else.

These friends were not education-hating non-reading conspiracy-theory moms, mind you. There were more MA’s and Ph.D.’s in that group than I could common core estimate. Most of the commenters work in education. And almost all of us lie on reading logs. All. The. Time.

Why? We are all avid readers. We all believe in the power of reading.

We’ve all seen the handouts. The charts. The memes. If our kids don’t read 20 min a day, every day, they will become education-hating non-reading conspiracy-theory adults. 

The risk is huge. We must incentivize. This reading must happen. And reading logs are an easy way to keep kids and parents on track.

Parents just need to step up and be responsible. At the end of the day, that's the message.

Disclaimer: I’m a teacher. And I don’t believe in homework. I never assign it to underclassmen on purpose. Only my AP seniors get homework, and it is always specifically designed after the college model. I have spoken with many other teachers who don’t believe in homework. But I can't get past the conversations I have had with educators I highly respect. One of them, a high school teacher who formerly taught second grade, said, “I never assigned homework in second grade. Except for 20 min a day of reading. And math facts.” The other educators in my family fundamentally believe in the importance of 20 min of reading a day...and math facts.

<Oh, the math facts. So many problems a day. Worksheet after worksheet. So many tears. So little time.>

When I’ve talked with my kids’ teachers, the reasons have been varied, but the results are the same. 

“It’s a grade-level decision.”

“It’s a district decision.”

“If kids don’t read 20 min a day, they will fall behind.” 

“It’s an incentive for non-readers, and no big deal for avid readers.”

BUT let's STOP for a moment. Let's be honest, here.

We’re ALL LYING. All of us parents. We are liars on the reading log. Maybe we just fudge the numbers. Or make up the titles. Or spread one marathon reading session over several log entries. Day after day, week after week. The reasons and methods are varied, but the results are the same. Everybody does it and everybody knows it.

My daughter reads every night in bed. I know she’s reading. Sometimes she reads for 10 minutes. Sometimes she reads for an hour. She reads books aloud to her brother and me in the car. She reads magazines in the bathtub. She reads the Comcast Ondemand screens as she searches for new Teen Titans Go! episodes. Her bedroom has one clear path from the doorway to her bed and the dresser. And it is lined with books. There are books on her bed, in her bed, under her bed, next to her bed.

But I don’t know every title of what she reads every day and how many minutes she reads each of them. Frankly, I don’t care. She reads. And so I scrawl something on the reading log every day so she doesn’t have to stay inside at recess. “It’s okay, mom, I didn’t mind losing Friday recess for not having my reading log done. I got to stay in and read,” she said.

I know that we could set up a plan, read on the commute to and from school, practice our math facts together, and be done with it all before we walk in the door. But car rides are when we get to examine the merits of Taylor Swift lyrics, discuss the implications of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and analyze the finer points of secondary Marvel characters. Car rides are also where we discuss the Pledge of Allegiance, what we should say to our friends when they insist that “Let it Go” is a terrible song, and how people can know for sure if they’re gay or straight. I gotta tell you, I’m not substituting our car conversations for homework.

My son, who has not yet received his first reading log, considers himself a non-reader. He is reading at grade level, but he is not reading-confident. Unlike his older sister, he is driven to do his homework and do it right. “Call the teacher,” he’ll sob. “There’s a word missing on the spelling list and the test is tomorrow. Call the teacher!” Maybe reading logs will be an incentive for him. I imagine it will be easy to fill out the reading logs for him when they start to arrive. Every level 1 reader we read takes at least 30 minutes to get through. We stop on every page, as he explains the plot inconsistencies and the missing information on Peter Parker’s transformation. He is frustrated that these books don’t get the stories right: "The Hulk and Iron Man were not on the same team in that story, mom. The book is wrong." When the reading logs begin to arrive, I know that if I can just remember to write down the title of the book and the number of minutes and sign in the little box, I can conquer this windmill.

But I know what will happen. I will come downstairs after tucking him in, and I’ll check Facebook and I’ll make lunches and I’ll fold laundry and I’ll do the dishes and three days later I’ll remember the reading log on the fridge, buried underneath the latest spelling test. I’ll make up book titles. I’ll randomly decide that some days we read for 30 min, and Friday night we only read for 10, because that looks more believable. I’ll sign my name and tally the numbers in my head with my common core math skills and I’ll put the log in the homework folder.

Another reading log finished and turned in. Success.