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Children who read are more likely to succeed. Innumerable studies have documented the positive impact of recreational reading on academic achievement. Yet, with the rise of irresistible technological distractions, parents and educators are struggling to impart a lifelong love of reading among today's students.
Reading logs are one popular tool used by schools to encourage children to read more. Teachers require their students to keep a journal of their daily reading, and parents to remind their child to read. Parents sign their children's logs before submission the next day. But do reading logs really work in the long run?
As Pantelis Charalambous, Grade 5 teacher at American International School in Cyprus (AISC), discovered, possibly not: “I was noticing that students were returning their reading logs incomplete and not signed. I carried out some research and saw that reading logs are not that effective.” He wanted to be able to track his students’ progress, he explained, “I was developing the love of reading at school and that’s all I really wanted, to be honest. At home I just want students to respond to their daily reading, as well as report their progress within their chosen book.”
What Pantelis had stumbled upon was actually a case of external vs. intrinsic motivation at play. While we want children to love reading intrinsically, introducing systems such as reading logs that monitor, control and measure, may actually undermine these efforts, leading to a decline in students’ motivation to read. In a study measuring the impact of reading logs, researchers reported that they are actually ineffective ways of fostering a love of reading. They even lead to a decrease in children’s motivation to read, in some cases, leading to a recommendation that educators explore the possibility of crafting assignments that enable students to be more autonomous readers.
And that is exactly what Pantelis did, with delightful and surprising results! This year, he developed a new program at AISC called “Snap-It,” where students have to send weekly emails with a photo of themselves with their book, documenting the title and page that they are on, as well as responding to a weekly prompt that aligns with the class reading objectives. Every Monday, students send in an email with their photo, title of their book and number of their current page. And every Sunday, they send the same information, adding their response to the prompt of the week. By employing a communications tool that appealed to the students more effectively, Pantelis motivated them to engage more readily in the activity, ultimately inspiring them to develop an affinity towards reading.
The response to these assignments has been so positive, that Pantelis has of expanded his in-class program with an accompanying website to document the whimsical photos he is receiving, “Families and students have been getting very creative! Pets, Snapchat filters, on-location photos, special effects - students are really having a lot of fun with this! And this is what we ultimately want, for them to engage with their books in a positive way that encourages them to build a reading habit for life.”
Visit the class gallery at https://grade5peanuts.wordpress.com/video-and-photo-gallery/snap-it/.