Reading Diaries: Yea or Nay?

When Alice started primary school, we had a reading diary. I say 'we', because I was the one who conscientiously filled it out every night. Every scrawled space with the date, the name of the particular excruciatingly dull reader we'd struggled through that evening, and her comments which I recorded because she couldn't (usually a noncommittal 'okay', though in fact she was more likely to shriek, 'I HATE reading! I can't do this! This is TERRIBLE!') and my dutiful signature, gave little hint of the nightly war we waged to 'get reading done.'

Filling out the diary became more desultory as she advanced up the school, paradoxically in inverse relation to her growing literacy skills. By the time it came to Evie's turn, I was exhausted. No matter, Evie was keen enough to fill out her own diary, though her enthusiasm dropped away eventually, too. 

When Alice went on her big Harry Potter binge, and when Evie plunged into the world of Warriors, we  didn't keep records. Now Alice is in high school, where they don't expect you to keep a journal of what you read, and Evie is in Grade 4, and she can read basically anything.

Evie is still expected to read for 'twenty minutes every night' and keep a record of what she's read -- how many pages, did she like it, etcetera. And I'm supposed to ask her comprehension questions to make sure she understands what she's reading. I'm not a naturally rebellious person, but this year, I've decided not to cooperate. I'm not going to make Evie keep a record of what she reads. I'm not going to set the timer to make sure she does her statutory 20 minutes. And I'm not going to cross-question her about the content either. I trust her to use her own judgment about whether this is a 'just-right' book, without totting up how many words she can't quite understand per page. Sometimes you have to encounter a word a lot of times before its meaning drops into place. I want her to read books that are just a little bit too hard, as well as old favourites that she knows by heart. And I want her to think of reading as a pleasure, a joy, not just another homework chore to tick off the list, not another square to fill up in the bloody diary. If that means that some nights, she doesn't read anything, that's fine. And if she wants to spend all day immersed in Half-Blood Prince, that's fine too.

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