I want my kids to learn to talk to the authors of the books they are reading. Of course they rarely have the opportunity to do this in person but as we read a book, it can be like having a conversation with the author. I want my kids to actively engage with what they are reading, not just read and accept. Ask questions, connect thoughts, and think about what they are reading. As they do so, they will be actively learning from the author.
There are many different reading journal prompts available online but my kids have found them overwhelming and tend not to use them. So I’ve been looking for something that is simple and generic – something that my kids can refer to at the end of a reading session to help them think and record their thinking, something that will give them some meaningful notes, something that is relevant regardless of the genre they are reading. I want this to be a natural part of reading not something that is hard.
When I read a book I generally have a pen in hand as I am comfortable with the idea of underlining and marking a book as I read or taking notes in my notebook. This of course isn’t so easy these days with e-readers, but I’m trying to get into the habit of highlighting those books as well. In order to come up with a simple list of reading prompts, I asked myself “What are the things I take note of when I read?” These are the things I want my kids to become familiar with:
- Do I have a question? I record my question and either wait till the author reveals the answer or go and research the answer myself
- Am I making connections with other ideas or knowledge? When I read my mind is makes connections with other ideas or things that I know. I write down what has prompted my thinking (copy-write) and continue writing my own thoughts on from that.
- Do I agree or disagree with what I’ve read? I often use crosses or ticks to indicate if I agree or disagree but if I want to interact (share my thoughts) I copy-write or summarise the portion and then write my responses or reactions
- Is there something I must remember? A fact, idea or quote I don’t want to forget. I simply jot down anything I want to remember – often with an asterisk so I can see this is important to me.
- Have I learnt something? Has there been a new idea or new information that is significant to me? I copy-write or summarise, take notes
- Have I been challenged to go and do something? To change? Grow? Or do a project? I take notes and commit to doing it – often use an asterisk for this one too – because if I really do want to do something I don’t want it to get lost in my other notes.
The idea of a reading journal is simply to respond to what you have read. We retain so much more if we interact with what we hear/read. Once my kids are finished a book I’d like them to write something. Traditionally this has been seen as a book review, but I’d like them to take it further. They have read the book, not just to enjoy the story and encourage others to read it too, but to learn something from the author, to learn something of a particular topic. This is of course more pertinent to living books or non-fiction books. My hope is that at the end of the book they have learnt something and I’d like them to write about that in some way and their reading journal will be full of thoughts, quotes and ideas to help them in this final project.