Keeping Track with Personal Reading Records

I recently caught up with two former students to talk about – of course – reading! One is at a new school, and I still see the other around campus and in the library, though I’m not regularly in the classroom these days.

I heard from their mothers ( both book people, so of course we’re in touch) that Kenzie and Hannah keep reading records for themselves, and I was very curious to see how – or if – they continued on where their library class with me left off some years ago.

I kept a wall behind my desk depicting my own reading life: covers showing books i’d read and those I planned to read. In addition, a couple of my classes chose to track their reading lives on another wall of the library.I love that this particular wall grew out of these readers’ desires to follow their own lives as readers.

In our recent conversations, I started out by asking the girls why they keep track of their reading. Kenzie uses her list/page count system to prove a point to others and to show that she really is as well read as she says she is, and to see how far she has come as a reader. She also uses a list of books she’s read to keep track of where she’s been. I can relate to that. I remember where I was when I dug through Bronte’s Villanelle on summer in high school, and I opened Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the security line at Gatwick Airport. Kenzie also pointed out that she likes bonding with new friends over books they both love.

Hannah uses a journal to remember what a book was about, and to set and keep reading goals. She also finds that she can also track her taste in books.

I asked next how the readers keep track of their reading. Kenzie carries two lists. One is of books to acquire/to read. A book goes on this list when it’s recommended or when she decides to read it.  It gets crossed out when it gets added to her (physical) bookshelf.  A book goes onto the second list when she starts reading it, along with its page count. When she’s completed it, she marks it off.

Hannah makes lists of books she wants to read while she browses the library shelves, then adds them to her journal when she starts reading, with synopses, notes, and a rating system. I asked some other students about keeping track of their reading. Many of them simply try to remember what they read, except for those who are currently using their Humanities teacher’s Reading Bingo to track their reading.

I keep an occasional journal as well, noting books that inspire me in some way. Otherwise, I keep track using Goodreads and my library wishlist. If not for these tools, I would be lost.

Inspired by this conversation, I also asked my colleagues how they track their reading. They use  phone notes apps, Amazon and library wishlists, and Goodreads (many are actually on Goodreads but only a few use it, and those are mostly readers who are members of book clubs).

I asked Kenzie and Hannah how they choose their next read.  Kenzie chooses a book from a genre she’s interested in, then explores titles in that genre. A read-alike in that genre inspires her next read. Sometimes she needs a break from a certain type of book, though, like murder mysteries or books with heavier themes.

Hannah finds her next read by using eeny meeny miney mo, from 3-4 books she chooses from the shelves by turning a few pages, according to her mood, and referring to her list.

Asked how they read,  Hannah reads all in print, and Kenzie reads in print or on her phone if she’s out and about. Hannah has expressed that she is not at all an audio book lover (it is my main way to consume books these days, to be honest).

Finally I asked the girls what they’re reading now.

Favorite Genre:

Hannah: Realistic fiction and historical fiction – she feels that she learns more from them.

Kenzie: Mystery

One unforgettable book:

Kenzie: Under the Egg

Hannah: All the Light We Cannot See

A book to recommend to a parent:

Hannah: The Rhyme Schemer

Kenzie: Everything she thinks is good

Here we are with a few of our favorite books.

It was a blast to ask these questions of students I’ve watched grow from early readers through their middle grade years. It is especially rewarding to celebrate the readers we all are today.

Do you keep personal reading records? Why and how?

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Valerie Stein
In fourth grade, Valerie Stein touched an ancient artifact from an archaeological dig. Though she never got to travel the world in search of buried treasure, she ended up journeying to new and exciting places between the pages of books. Now she spends her time researching history, in museums and libraries, which is like archaeology but without the dirt. Valerie’s book, THE BEST OF IT: A JOURNAL OF LIFE, LOVE AND DYING, was published in 2009. Her current work focuses on historical fiction set in Washington State. Valerie is proprietor of Homeostasis Press, and blogs at The Best of It. She manages Gather Here, an online history site for middle grade readers and teachers.

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