Some Thoughts on the Home Reading Program

I have had a home reading library in my classroom most of the 20+ years I have been teaching.  I have created charts that house library pockets so that each child could use it as a sign out for taking classroom books home.  Some of the schools I have taught in have provided a very small amount of official "home reading books" in tubs that we as a primary staff all shared.

Through the years, I have struggled with some things as far as home reading goes:

1.  In principle, HOME reading should be just that - reading done at home with your own books because you want to (and need practice).  If home reading is linked to school in the way we have historically done, reading is seen as a "SCHOOL" thing and not a "HOME/LIFE" thing.

2.  Sign out is time consuming!  I used to do it myself but quickly decided this was taking away from teaching time so I asked a parent volunteer to do it.  It started out okay, then the parent got so involved with the kids and chatting.  It took forever.  This was not a bad thing, often they were talking about the book!  However, it still interfered with the morning's lessons.  So, I changed it to silent reading time in the afternoon and the location was in the atrium (hallway).  That was much better.

3.  If your school does not have funds, often the students are signing out YOUR books. You know how expensive that could be!  Also, the books get tattered quite quickly.

So what is the solution?

My team and I came up with a sort of "putting the home back in home reading" idea.  We would send a letter home to parents telling them that "Home" reading would be done at home.  We sent home a chart where parents and students recorded the book they read at home to keep the program running and the students accountable.  We offered a small prize from the prize box as a motivator for every completed sheet.  We encouraged parents to visit the school library and the local library. (2 years in a row we walked our own students down to the library and parents had filled out the form ahead of time and we had dropped it off.  When we arrived all students got library cards.)

The letter to parents outlined the program and the fact that reading is more than just having your child read to you.  Parents could read to their child.  They could share the reading.  Students could read to their dog or their teddybear!  The point was that they were reading something THEY wanted to read and they were reading at home. If you would like a copy of the letter, you can grab it here.

It was always a treat to see how proud the students were to share their favourite books with the class and represent their understanding in different ways.  This really lends itself to 21st Century Learning and it allows parents to be a part of the learning.  As for assessment, I have done various things.  I have asked students to self assess using a short check list and I have done peer assessment. As the teacher, I mark the students on their oral language only.  (Any home project is hard to genuinely assess as we don't know how much help the child has had.)  In BC, oral language can be up to 60 % of a student's grade in primary! I mark:  articulation, eye contact, volume and expression.  The kids loved getting instant feedback and I loved the authentic assessment.  I use this with my second graders and they even ask me "What did I get last time?" It's nice to see that they are trying to improve each time.

For those of you who this won't work for (K's or Firsties or you are just not comfortable changing your home reading this year, there is an app I heard about that is FREE that you can download and catalogue your home reading books. Just click on the picture for more info.

What do you think about this "home" reading program? Would it work for you? Drop me a comment and let's share ideas!


  1. I love how much thought you have put into this program. I can't download the document. I too have tried the home reading program with all the steps you outlined above. My books have gone home and been lost or damaged numerous times. The funniest thing is when I have books returned years later when parents are cleaning house and find them.

    I teach 1st and have developed a reading log that allows my students to track reading minutes on their own. This way the parents are hopefully not fudging the minutes so their darling has the most! :-)

    1. Great idea about having your students track their reading. Some of mine do that, sometimes it's the parents.
      I have adjust the file so that it is shareable. Sorry about that. It was my first time using Google Docs!


  2. I used to do this but too many kids didn't participate (the ones who really needed the practice usually) because they didn't have books at home.

  3. I now use my own books again (they're mostly leveled) and leveled books from the school Home Reading library. The kids have a recording sheet and they exchange their books and record the title and level when they come in each morning. During announcements I circulate and initial the sheets making sure their books are returned and an adult or older sibling has initialled that the child read to them. If the book isn't returned, or they didn't read, or the sheet isn't initialled, I attach a pre-made note. The problem is almost always solved the next day and over the years very few books have gone missing. Maybe one or two a year. I give kids who haven't lost their books a free book at the end of each term (that I get with my Scholastic coupons). They are always really motivated by this. I have done this with grade 1's, 2's, and even k's toward the end of the year.

    1. Hi Debbie,

      I can totally relate to your comment about how the ones who really need it, don't practice. I know what you are saying and most often that is the case. However, I can't control who reads and who doesn't at home. If I see a child who desperately wants to read at home but clearly the parents aren't providing books, I will make an adjustment for that child. But, for me, after all these years struggling with this, I have had to release myself of the responsibility. I teach and provide a TON of reading time during class time. If a child doesn't read at home, that is the parent's responsibility don't you think? I must say though, my students are SUPER excited to earn a prize or certificate and they start taking their monthly presentations very seriously when they see others doing it and with positive feedback from me and others. Then I can stop worrying about home and focus on what I was trained to do - teach! :)

  4. I've been doing a similar home reading program for years. Our school secretary puts together certificates for the kids every time they read for 25 nights. We do the library visit, too. I think it works out really well. Great post!

    Grade ONEderful
    Ruby Slippers Blog Designs

  5. Thank Barbara!

    I'm glad to hear this is effective for you too. I think I will create a certificate instead of a prize this year. It promotes a more intrinsic "reward" for reading.


  6. Hi Shelley,

    I send home a note about home reading with my students at the beginning of the year. It explains how parents can read to their children, or how they can listen while their children read, ask them about what they read, etc. It focuses on how reading can be enjoyed and shared. I also have lots of books that are available in my classroom for taking home. They are not my leveled books, so I don't really worry about whether they are returned or not. Most of the time they come back. I got many of them from thrift stores, garage sales, etc. so they are bonus books in my mind. If the kids read, that is my ultimate goal.

    Charlene/Diamond Mom
    Diamond Mom's Treasury


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