Try It Now: Why You Should Stop Assigning Reading Homework

Forced reading doesn’t foster a love of reading.

As teachers, we want students to read, read a lot, and LOVE to read. So, we assign 20 minutes of reading for homework and hand out reading logs for students to complete and return with a parent’s signature. Then, we despair when kids tell us they “hate” reading.

Perhaps the best, if counterintuitive, way to get kids to love reading is to not do anything at all. Or, put another way, to free up our students’ after-school time rather than lock it down with a reading log.

It’s been suggested before that reading logs kill the love of reading. In his book Raising Kids Who Read, Daniel T. Willingham argues that assigning reading time or a reading log turns reading into work, which communicates to kids that it’s not worth doing for fun. After all, why read for free when someone will give you a sticker, a grade or an allowance?

So, reading logs are counterproductive, but once we erase that ever-present reading assignment from the nightly homework, how can we nudge kids towards reading (and make them love it)?

  • Devote class time to sharing interesting facts: Spend some time each week having students share what they learned from reading that was interesting. The caveat: They have to read the fact or story outside of school and be able to tell their peers where they read it.
  • Beef up your classroom library: Fill your classroom library with books, magazines and other high-interest reading material, and make it all check-out-able.
  • Send kids home with a question: Rather than sending students home with an assignment “to read,” send them home with a question to answer. Then, they’ll have to go on a fact-finding (read: reading) mission.

Have you given up the reading log in your classroom? How did it go? Tell us about it in the comments.

Reading Homework