Letter to Delphine's Teacher Re: Reading Log

Here's a letter I wrote to Delphine's teacher about the daily reading log he has asked us to have the children fill out — the children are supposed to read for fifteen minutes a day, and the parents are expected to initial the log on a daily basis.

Mr. F——

Delphine has not been filling in her reading log. I admit I haven't been encouraging her to -- I want her to read for as long as she wants to for pleasure and knowledge, not to a clock because she's been told to. Delphine is a born reader and we have no problem getting her to read or to challenge herself.

I can assure you with a great deal of confidence that she has read for at least fifteen minutes every day this September, and indeed probably every day since she learned to read four years ago. I can also assure you, with almost the same degree of confidence, that she will read for at least fifteen minutes a day for the rest of the school year. I'm so confident of that that I would happily pre-initial a year's worth of reading logs right now. However, I expect that would defeat any other purposes of the reading log that you have in mind.

If the reading log serves to give you some idea of what students are reading, would it be acceptable for Delphine to provide you a list of what she has read? She's also willing to write a report on what she's read once a month or at some other frequency if that would be helpful.

Let me know if you'd like to discuss this in person -- I'm available before and after school most days.

Hopefully he will respond favourably. I think the only eventuality I didn't cover in the above letter is that he wants the kids to fill in the reading log because he wants them to get used to doing bullshit paperwork. This is a defense which comes up frequently when this matter is under debate. "They're going to have to do mindless busywork at some point, better get them used to it!" I don't buy it. They're all going to have to, say, wear glasses at some point (unless they die before middle age), but no-one advocates making all children wear glasses.

And it's not like doing bullshit paperwork is a sophisticated skill you have to start working on in childhood, like playing classical piano or doing gymnastics. You can pretty much pick it up in half an hour.

Anyway, Mr. F—— strikes me as an intelligent and thoughtful teacher, so I don't think he's going to go for the bullshit paperwork angle. We'll see how it turns out.