Quite a long time ago, I quit sending home reading logs and asking parents/students to time their reading. I've never regretted that decision. Reading at home is expected but runs on an honor system. I don't need parents or students stressing over reading time or hating reading because of having to keep track. Reading should be a joy, not a chore.
I have found that students who have been well-matched with books and have a teacher who instills a joy of reading will read. That's my job. I have to be the "book detective" to find the right books for each student. Students are going to get plenty of reading time at school because I build it into our day. So, I look at reading at home is an exciting bonus.
I encourage reading at home and tell families I expect students to read. I give families a list of suggestions for getting students to read willingly outside of school. We all know it will benefit them hugely. Sometimes we just have to be creative about it.
Encourage reading at home with book talks and talk about what you're reading at home during morning meeting. Encourage everyone to talk about where they read and when. Casually mention things like how you sneak in a few pages when you're cooking dinner and ask about how students deal with inconveniently having to stop at an exciting part. Ask things like: Do characters run around in your heads and make you wonder what is happening next in the book or is that just me? The point is, we want reading (and thinking about reading) to just seem like a normal thing people do at home, not a punishment.
Here's my list for parents of sneaky ways to get kids reading without a fight. (What can I say?! I'm a parent too!) GET IT HERE.
Lunch Bunch Book Share
Students love to have lunch with their teacher. So I use that to my advantage. I schedule Lunch Bunch time with groups of students just to talk about great books. This is time to visit and listen to students talk about books they are loving. Draw them out. Make it fun and give them your focused attention.
I bring dessert and we talk all things books. Characters that we can't get our of our heads or seem like our friends now. How the author described the setting so we could almost draw it. Fascinating things we've learned from our non-fiction reads. That poem that we can't get out of our heads like a song on the radio.
So when should you do this? Here's a few options.
Once a week with a different group each week
Twice a month with half your class each time
Once month with your whole class
Make it an event. I skip November, December, April and May if I am doing weekly groups. For whole class, I just skip December and May.
The Million Words Club
This came from a school my kids went to many moons ago. They had a million words club and a walk of fame down the hallways. Students received a caricature of themselves reading from the art teacher and a copy was framed and put in the hallway. Every child who has ever received one is still there on the wall, years later. The oldest students on that wall just graduated college this year.
Here's how it woks. Students read over the course of a year, keep track of their books and the number of words in the book (look them up online). Add up the words until they get to a million. Once at a million, students hand in all of their reading logs and volunteers check them for word counts and addition. If it all adds up, they get their face in the walk of fame. If it doesn't, they have to go back, finish and turn it in again. Honor reading, and kids will read.