I have all kinds of love for Donalyn Miller and her Status of the Class idea, as well as her 40-Book Challenge idea, which are both presented in The Book Whisperer, and if you haven’t read that yet, you should go do that now.
All good? Didn’t you love it? Me, too.
I also love Goodreads, and I wish they had a young readers feature so my fifth graders could use their reading recommendations and statistics, but I’m still waiting on that.
These tools all help readers keep track of what they’re reading. The 40-Book Challenge asks students to read 40 books during the school year. In ten months of school, that’s about a book a week.
The Goodreads challenge goes during the calendar year, allowing you to set a goal for how many books you want to complete, and showing a progress bar as you get closer to your target. It also shows you interesting stats, like your most-read authors, average book ratings, and number of pages read.
Status of the Class involves a collection of data over time to see what students are reading – today I’m on this page of this book, last Thursday I was on this page of this book, last Tuesday I was on this page of this book, and so on. All of these give readers a pattern to observe about their reading habits and choices, which can help them use their reading time more constructively. Plus, the tracking is highly motivating for many students, especially if the writing piece is not too cumbersome.
So how do we track our reading during the school year without Goodreads?
Books, Rather Than Minutes
First, I want to say that I am not a fan of tracking minutes. No reader who is engrossed in a book pays attention to the clock, and they don’t read all in one sitting – they read as much as they can when they aren’t interrupted by life. This reality is difficult to accurately record in paper boxes. Avid readers frequently just guess and write down a number.
Readers who are paying attention to the clock are just waiting for mandated reading time to be over, so writing down the minutes doesn’t really serve any purpose. It proves students did an assignment, but it doesn’t foster a love of reading, and that’s what we really want – my post about access, choice, and book love talks more about this. The parent signatures on reading minutes logs, which are supposed to ensure compliance, mean little because most parents are so busy, they can barely remember to wear matching shoes, much less how many minutes their third child read last Wednesday.
So while we want students to spend time reading, keeping track of minutes isn’t my favorite way. I ask students to track completed books instead. I’ve used two different methods that work pretty well, and I’ll share with you what I like best and worst about each.
Making it Manageable - Save Time to Read
When it comes to recording completed books, I don’t want the record-keeping to get in the way of the reading. I had one student who was an exceedingly prolific reader – as many as 30 books a week – and yet writing was a huge struggle. The student recorded four books a week so that there would be a pattern to examine (even though it wasn’t a complete record). It worked, giving us some conference discussion points without being intrusive on reading time. Other students used voice to text to record their books if writing was a road block, but all students have been able to manage this system in fifth grade without any other accommodations.
What do students track?
I've had the privilege of working with hundreds of students and families in IA, CT, NC, MO, TX, and Canada. I love being a teacher-librarian!