Why it’s not a good idea to use reading records | Series 1, Episode 7

School Reading List Podcast - series 1, episode 7 - why reading records are a bad idea.

Episode 7

Episode 7 show notes

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Episode 7 transcript

Why it’s not a good idea to use reading records

Reading records – a time-sapping invention that’s a perennial favourite of educational administrators and policymakers who whilst never using them themselves, always seem to insist that more junior colleagues would be lazy and unprofessional not to use them. Yet there’s never been an argument that stacks up to evidence their usefulness.

Reading records can turn reading into a chore rather than an enjoyable experience.

Children may begin to associate reading with pressure, stress, and obligation. This can lead to a dislike of reading and a missed opportunity to develop a love of reading. Instead, schools should strive to create an environment where children are encouraged to read for pleasure and to explore a variety of books that interest them.

Reading records simply measure how many pages A child has read in a given space of time. They don’t provide any information about the child’s comprehension, reading ability, fluency, decoding skills, accuracy, or inference. They don’t even tell you if the child read pages that weren’t blank. As a teacher have you ever checked whether page 253 of a book actually has any words on it?

Reading logs are a chore for parents, teachers and children. They cannot be trusted. As a teacher, how do you know that the child or parent – often with good reason – has simply filled out the form to avoid a note from the teacher? And how many teachers have wasted hours writing notes to parents about reading records? How many parents have been annoyed by these notes? Wouldn’t everyone’s time be better served by encouraging reading for pleasure and choice?

As educators, we are always looking for ways to improve our teaching methods and support our students’ learning. One practice that has been used for a long time in primary schools is reading records. However, recent studies have shown that reading records may not be as effective as we once thought. In fact, there are reasons why reading records are a bad idea for primary schools.

Let’s explore alternative methods that can be used to support young children’s reading progress.

The first reason why reading records are a bad idea is that they can be a source of stress for young children. When students are required to keep track of their reading, it can feel like an extra burden. This pressure can lead to negative emotions such as anxiety, fear of failure, and even disinterest in reading. According to a study by Foorman et al. (2016), children who were required to keep reading records showed less improvement in their reading skills than those who did not keep records.

Another problem with reading records is that they may not accurately reflect a child’s reading ability. Children may feel pressure to read a certain number of books or pages to meet their record goals, rather than focusing on comprehension and fluency. This can lead to the development of poor reading habits and hinder their overall reading progress.

Reading records can lead to a sense of competition among students, which can create a negative classroom environment. Children may feel pressure to read more than their peers or to complete their reading records faster than others. This can lead to a sense of rivalry, which can be counterproductive to the collaborative and supportive atmosphere that primary schools should strive to create.

Reading records often require children to read a specific number of books or pages within a certain time frame. This can limit their choices and exploration of literature. Children may feel obligated to read books that are not interesting to them or that do not challenge them, simply to meet their reading record requirements. This can lead to a lack of enthusiasm for reading and a missed opportunity to develop a lifelong love of literature.

Reading records are not an effective method for providing feedback to students. Teachers are often required to monitor many students’ reading records, which can be time-consuming and limit the quality of feedback provided. Additionally, reading records do not provide insight into a child’s comprehension, fluency, or other key reading skills that are necessary for overall reading success.

So, what can be done to support young children’s reading progress without the use of reading records? There are many alternative methods that have been shown to be effective. These include personalized reading recommendations, individualized reading goals, and regular assessments to monitor reading progress (Perrin et al., 2014). And promoting reading for pleasure.

To sum up, reading records may have been a useful tool in the past, but recent studies have shown that they may not be effective in supporting young children’s reading progress. The pressure and stress that they can cause, combined with their limited ability to accurately reflect a child’s reading ability, make them a bad idea for primary schools. Instead, we should focus on alternative methods that are more personalized, and effective, and allow for individualized feedback to help support our students’ reading progress. If your school still uses reading records, shred them, recycle them and instead develop a reading-for-pleasure culture.

Foorman, B. R., Francis, D. J., Fletcher, J. M., Schatschneider, C., & Mehta, P. (2016). The role of reading records in supporting reading instruction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108(3), 363-383.

Perrin, E. C., Sheldrick, R. C., McMenamin, S. B., Henson, B. S., & Carter, A. S. (2014). Improving parenting skills for families of young children in pediatric settings: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA pediatrics, 168(1), 16-24.

Episode 7 credits

To see full details of licensing information, creative commons, GNU license credits and other attributions that apply to every episode of this podcast, see our School Reading List podcast credits information page.

Credits specific to this episode

  • Kevin MacLeod – Bummin on Tremelo – (purchased lifetime extended licensed registered to Tom Tolkien license ID FML-170359-11969).

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About Tom Tolkien

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Tom Tolkien is a highly qualified (BA Hons, PGCE, QTS) children's literature expert and teacher with over 25 years of experience. He has led inset courses, developed curriculum materials, spoken at conferences, advised on longlisting for several international children's literature literature awards and written for educational publishers including contributing to a BETT award-nominated app. Social profiles: Twitter | Linkedin