Reading (s)logs

Blau’s frank discussion of the reading “logs” (I’ll probably also call them “journals” throughout the post) was particularly useful for me as I have the same hesitations he does: I think some students see the logs as “busy work” or don’t do the reading and thus can’t do the logs (and then lose points twice over), plus I know that assigning logs means a lot more work for me come mid-semester and finals, etc. But Blau makes some convincing arguments for why they are still useful—mostly, that I should try it sometime.

It’s funny, though, because recently I was taking an MFA class that required me to use a reading log. The professor introduced the log as something to do in tandem with our reading, and he explained that he would collect the logs at some point in the semester. The accountability was there. Still, even though I knew we’d be held accountable, I half-assed it. I filled the log with random quotes, doodles, notes from class, etc. Why? Because, like Blau’s students, I saw the log as busy work. I do this in my head, I thought, why should I write it down? Furthermore, recording entries in the log interrupted my reading process—something I had very little patience for.

So with my own shortcomings in mind, I thought about how I could reframe this for my own students. If I were to introduce reading logs to my class in the way that he does (which, by the way, the examples/controlled practice he suggests seem particularly smart), I might also make some suggestions, or elicit some suggestions from students, about how to actually make the reading log fit relatively painlessly into a reading process. Logistically. I’m talking about when to stop and write (after each chapter? After a period of sustained reading? Before you begin reading and again afterwards? After a certain number of pages, etc?). For me, it’s the skill (or maybe the discipline) of interrupting the joy of reading to record my thoughts, that makes me wary of the reading log. And maybe, even though they can’t articulate it, that’s how our students feel. And maybe, with Blau’s introduction to the log and some logistical support about how to actually make a reading log work, they’d get a thing or two out of the exercise.