Tuesday, February 15, 2011


So there's this new movie called Race to Nowhere which is about how some of us have been pressuring our children to be high achievers at school and participate in many activities and that maybe this is something that seems like a good idea but has gotten out of control and our kids are buckling under the pressure and falling apart.

The movie is causing quite a stir among those who have been uncomfortable with this all along (me) and those who want to keep pushing the kids to further greatness (Tiger-Mom.) Here's an excerpt about the movie from NPR :

The film is becoming something of a rallying point for frustrated parents, who are now pushing for change from the bottom up. "Just last week we had a parent get up and say, 'You know, at some point it comes down to civil disobedience. If a bunch of us just say, 'We're not having our young kids, who are in elementary school, do the homework,' or, 'We're going to keep them home on the test day,' " Abeles [the film's producer] says. "I think that you're seeing parents and educators feeling much more empowered."

Yeah, baby, civil disobedience! I'm a fan. Sometimes I purposely keep a DVD past the due date and just say the heck with late fees I may never see the end of The Kids Are Alright if I turn it in on time! And more than once I have even gone through the red light at the high school parking lot on Lake at midnight when there is no traffic and I have practiced saying, "Yes, officer, I know I did that. It was a conscious act of civil disobedience because that stoplight is too damned long and besides it is just a sign of oppression from the man."

But much braver than those trivial acts, I have allowed my kids, nay encouraged my kids, to make up stuff for their reading logs!! Oh yeah. It's true. Come and get me DCFS!

That's right, I NEVER made my kids fill out the reading log truthfully. (In case you are not familiar with the reading log, it is required from K-8 that kids in our district read X number of pages each month and log it. Then parents have to sign off on the log) They would take those cursed things at the end of the month, look around their rooms and write down a few titles of the several books they would have been reading anyway and make up stats about pages read. Then I would sign it.

The reason I do this is NOT because I am opposed to reading. Quite the contrary. The reason I do this is because I think it is ridiculous to require kids do something they should just be doing anyway like eating, breathing, and reading. And I am thoroughly convinced that if you require kids to do something that is inherently fun you will immediately take the fun out of it and I will not be a party to anything that takes the fun out of reading. A reading log is the biggest buzz killer ever invented and only serves to make kids think reading is just another school chore in their lives. It so effectively takes the fun out of whatever you have to log that I bet if you made your kids eat 20 M&Ms a day AND keep a log of it by the end of a month they'd never eat another M&M again.

Now, as I said, I do NOT underestimate the value of reading--quite the opposite. I'm aware that how much a kid reads is the number one predictor of school success-- which is why the academic world wants our kids to read and thus hit upon the diabolical reading log.

I suspect I am not the only one out there who has fudged a reading log but perhaps you are concerned that your kids won't read enough without it. So here, for those of you with kids young enough to still screw up, is what I did that seems to have worked pretty well :

-Read to them every day: I read to Atticus every day from the day he was a week old. Not kidding. I did this selfishly because I liked it. I'd waited years to have a kid of my own on my lap to read to. When Grace came along, I read to one kid and Jeff read to the other. Every night. When Lilly came along, we got Atticus in on the act and he started reading to the girls. Now of course they just read to themselves but the fact is they do read. A lot.

-Never say no to reading: I also had a rule as they grew--no matter what, if they asked me to read to them, I would stop whatever I was doing and read. I would stop folding clothes to read "Good Night Moon" or I would turn the stove off to read "Noisy Nora" It did not matter what I was doing, it was the one request that was always honored.

-Never say no to books: I never gave in when my kids begged for toys and candy (my standard answer was, "is it your birthday --do you have money?" this works by the way, they hardly ever asked for stuff), but I WOULD buy them a book if they asked. (If you cannot afford this luxury, subsitute a trip to the library.)

All three of my kids are avid readers--but it is not because of the stupid reading logs. It is in spite of them.

So I encourage you to fight the system a little and say no to some of the nonsense. Who knows, if we band together maybe we could get rid of the word searches and the map coloring. A girl can dream.


  1. Oh that really sounds like a silly idea indeed, those reading logs. And my mother said exactly the same as you: read to you children, like she did with my brother and me.

  2. I loved your suggestion. Seems like a no brainer...read to kids. This simple gift one that my grandparents passed on to my parents, who then passed onto me and my children and hopefully my children's children, should be handed down through generations like treasured heirlooms.

  3. Thanks for this! I added it to my master list of anti-reading log posts:

    Join the Chorus Against Reading Logs