Reading Journals and How They Help Children. A reading journal can be absolutely anything. For me, personally, I take a simple approach. But like any journal, it’s about making it yours.

When you read your books, what kind of annotations do you do? Are you the kind of person that likes putting in tabs and sticky notes with all of your thoughts for you to find at a moment’s notice? Or are you maybe someone who writes down everything directly on the pages in pencil? I suppose you could also be writing directly on the pages in pen or even highlighter, but I don’t want to believe that. Then again, if it is your copy of the book, do whatever you want to make your reading experience your own.

However, in an effort to try to save some pages from getting permanently marked, I would like to propose a new method of recording your thoughts and feelings on literature– reading journals. You might have seen this on social media, often with a sleek, bullet journal-esque design and system to it. But don’t let that scare you off! A reading journal can be absolutely anything. For me, personally, I take a simple approach. But like any journal, it’s about making it yours.

This freedom and creativity makes reading journals a great activity to do with children as they’re beginning to explore different kinds of literature. I would venture to say that for the standard person, unless you end up with a long-vested interest in reading throughout the rest of your life, we are exposed to the most books in our childhood– between bedtime stories and in the classroom, children read in order to understand the world they live in and how to communicate. To heighten the lasting impacts of reading, parents and teachers can encourage reflecting on what has been read by having children write down responses to questions and their feelings toward what they’ve read.

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Here’s one way method of journaling with your child:

  1. Buy a journal for you and your child to share when you read. This doesn’t have to be anything expensive or fancy– even a regular composition notebook will do!
  2. Read over the book your child will be reading. Write down a couple of questions for them to answer about the story’s content– these can be your own, or questions that are included within the beginning of many children’s books.
  3. Read the title and the description with your child and ask them to write down their initial thoughts. Ask things like, “What do you think this is about?” and, if they selected it themselves, “What interested you about this book?
  4. Enjoy the story together!
  5. Ask your child to write down their thoughts and opinions on the book– if they enjoyed it, if they didn’t, what they did or didn’t enjoy about it, how it made them feel, etc. –as well as responses to the story-based questions you previously wrote.
  6. Engage in a conversation about these responses, and even write your own with your child!

You and your child can develop your own individualized method as well with time and what you find does or doesn’t work, but the important part is the action. By having children write about books, you encourage critical thinking, the development of reading skills, and grow writing abilities– all at once! Alongside the expansion of important skills, it allows for reading to be more interactive between children and their parents and allows for children to stop and consider what it is they enjoy or didn’t enjoy about the book they read, which can help them with their future decision-making about what they want to read or do. In short, this allows for children to express their own opinions in an effective way. You can even encourage creativity by decorating the pages. One way of doing this is by allowing children to draw pictures of events that happened in the book.

It’s also enjoyable to read what your original thoughts were on a book long after you’ve read it to see if they’ve changed at all. Additionally, after a while, by having your children’s responses written on paper, you will be able to flip through the pages to see the improvement in handwriting and critical thinking, which is fantastic for evaluating your child’s development. You can use this to determine where to take your child’s education next.

So next time you’re settled down for storytime, try it out and watch how your child’s method of thinking about literature changes!

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Chloe Kukuk, a junior majoring in public relations and English at Oakland University, is an editorial and marketing intern at the Cardinal Rule Press. When she’s not studying or working, she loves taking trips to the bookstore and lazing around the house with her three wonderful cats.