How to Start a Reading Journal

posted in: Journaling | 2
Do you keep a reading journal? One just for your thoughts about books? I have to confess that soon after I started with the bold title page in the picture, that journal started to have entries about other things…and soon it became a lovely mix like most of my journaling. Thoughts on reading mix right in with school plans, creative writing, prayers, sketches.

What Could We Write Today?

I do, however, have lots of ideas about ways to get started writing about books—for you and your kids. Here are some of the categories we use.

1. A To-Be-Read List

It can be very inspiring to brainstorm up a whole list of books you’d like to read, or topics you’d like to read about. You could do this all at once, as I did on the title page in the picture, or you could keep a page where you note down all recommendations or thoughts over months.

2. Friendship with Books

Sometimes we do structured writing in response to books, but I have to say that a lot of what gets written is just loving appreciation. Some days I just briefly note something I loved—without trying to summarize the whole book.  My girls might write about characters that are becoming friends: below you can see a journal response to The Wind in the Willows.

(note: we are very careful with spelling in some contexts, but not during independent journaling!)

3. Commonplace Quotes

Even if you do not keep a special “commonplace book” to copy quotes that speak to you—or even if you do—it can be fun to sprinkle great lines through your ordinary journal.

4.Notes & Narrations

When we read history aloud together, I sometimes ask the girls to do their “narration” (telling back what you heard) in their journals. This exercises the skills of choosing what to tell and sorting information. Occasionally, though, I ask a specific question, and let them practice thinking in a different way than their natural bent. As they get older, we also practice finding and noting all the main points in a non-fiction piece they have read (something I do too, at times), or determining the turning points in a story. Personally, reading non-fiction, I often note down one key point that resonates, sometimes diagramming it out visually with arrows.

5. Arguing with Authors

Sometimes I do just what authors tell me. Occasionally, I even do the “exercises” in a practical book, and I do that in my journal. But when I can’t quite swallow one point of the author, that gets worked out in the journal too. This is actually a great motivation for writing, and leads to getting a much more out of books–I recommend it!

6. A Shared Journal

When my older daughter was in 4th grade, I gave her a journal with a letter in the front which said:

Welcome to our first “Shared Readers’ Journal!” This book is a place for the two of us to share our love of books and reading. It’s been so wonderful, during this past year, to begin reading books that you recommend to me, and talking about books together. Sometimes, though, my responses to your comments are not all they could be: sometimes I’m busy or distracted, sometimes I really just think better with a pen in my hand. So I look forward to writing back and forth in this little book. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and to sharing the pleasures of letter-writing about ideas, one of my great joys.

This can be a great project for a season, building relationships with each other and with the books.

7. A Yearly List of Books

Even more inspiring than #1, the list of books already read is just pure fun. I have tried all kinds of formats for this, including keeping lists in my regular journals, and having the girls fill out lovely printables. Right now, I keep track of their reading in my planner, and I keep an annual list of my own in Evernote, in a table with an image of the cover of each book, and brief notes or links to notes. To scroll back through a year’s reading is like leafing through a photo album full of happy memories.
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