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What if students kept track of their reading lists?

March 12, 2012
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Today I saw this great article on a recently uncovered list of books Alan Turing checked out from his school library (link to full list). Turing’s interest in math and science, even as a schoolboy, are obvious.

It also makes me wonder what would happen if we encouraged our students to keep similar lists? I find myself wishing I could go back and see some list of everything I’ve read—how would I see my interests developing over time? What connections would I see between between the books I chose to read?

As usual, there’s a way to make this easy with technology. The site GoodReads is an awesome tool for not only keeping track of your reading, but also to post mini-reviews, get suggestions for books to read, an share your reading interests with others. Why not encourage every student to open an account?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2012 2:03 pm

    My son (home-schooled) has been keeping a reading log for his consultant teacher—he reads a book about every 2 days. I kept my own book log last year, as an experiment: https://gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/books-read-2011/ . It is a bit tedious remembering to log each book (and I was just editing a text file, not taking the extra trouble to go to a web site).
    I gave up after a year and only 98 books.

    I can’t imagine voluntarily posting mini reviews of every book I read, and my son reads about twice as many books as I do. Certainly my son would balk at such an onerous writing assignment.

    • March 14, 2012 3:48 pm

      Yes, I’m not sure this would ever work as a forced assignment. My thought would be to help students see the value in keeping a record of what they’ve read, and allowing for some flexibility in how they do that. One student may simply want to keep a few meaningful quotes from the book. Another might write one sentence summaries. Another might write 1 page reviews. And another might make drawings to illustrate the book. And the things students choose to do might vary with time and interest. You and your son also seem to be much more prolific readers than the average—so it very well may not scale.

      Another thought is that as more and more texts become digital, the logging feature might be automatic. I’m now reading quite a few books in Amazon’s Kindle software, and it keeps track of my progress through books, as well as my highlights, and even offers me a nice little website called “Daily Review” that shows you one a different one of your book highlights every day.

      • March 14, 2012 5:51 pm

        What is the fascination that teachers have in taking the joy out of reading by requiring a joyless homework exercise after each book?

        • March 14, 2012 6:16 pm

          I think you misunderstand me. If students find tracking their reading joyless, then they shouldn’t do it. And I’m pretty much as anti-homework as you can get. But I find the idea keeping track of one’s reading, and seeing the patterns and connections between choices might very well prove interesting to some students. If it doesn’t–fine, don’t bother.

        • March 14, 2012 10:32 pm

          Ah. I see no harm in letting students be aware of ways to track their reading. Some will undoubtedly get into the idea of reading logs. As long as it is not mandated (or implicitly mandated by making it “extra credit”), it’s cool.

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