How to Use Reading Journals to Help Teach Writing

how to simplify your homeschool

Why should you use reading journals with your students?

Personally, I believe reading journals are an excellent way to have your students interact with their readings and improve their writing at the same time.  Whether your kids are six or sixteen they can write about what they read and begin their journal writing programs.  Let me share a few ways you can use journals at all ages.

how to use reading journals to help teach writing at all ages ... from

Teens & Reading Journals

My teenagers kept a reading journal during their homeschool years.  It specifically dealt with their literature reading assignment.  At the beginning of the years, they wrote about the events that occurred in the story.  As the years passed, they began writing more about the characters or the lessons they were learning from the story.  By the end, this was an informal essay, going beyond simply recapping what they read.

Middle School Ages

When my son was twelve, he started writing journal entries at the end of each day.  This told me what he “really learned” that day. He also made journal entries for specific readings, similar to narrations.  We used journals with his Bible readings.  He writes a paragraph about what he read in his morning devotions and I believe this helped reinforce what he read.

Young Kids & Journals

When my children were younger, they would narrate aloud what they read earlier that day.  I would write it down for them.  The following day, my kids would copy the narration in their best handwriting. Young children can have journal writing instruction as they enter copywork into their journals.  This is an easy process for you to duplicate in your homeschool:

  • He narrates to you
  • You write it down
  • He copies in his journal

Journals help my kids write on a daily basis, but I don’t think it teaches or improves their writing.  I use WriteShop or  Teaching Writing: Structure & Style to make a longer assignment that gives my kids the opportunity to write to a final draft form.  This also provides structure to teach writing skills & improve their writing.

To recap, we have two types of writings: informal journal entries about what they are reading and formal writing assignments where they learn how to improve their writing.  Sometimes we will use a journal entry and turn it into a polished final draft.



Question: How do you use reading journals to teach writing? You can leave a comment by clicking here.



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  1. I like this idea. And it occurs to me that if you use Teaching the Classics (available from IEW) that the lists of questions at the back of the book would make good writing prompts.

    I used to have my older kids do something similar with the historical books (fiction and non fiction) they read. They read a lot of books that didn’t fit the time period we were officially studying, so I had them write a brief summary of the book, and put it in a 3 ring binder that was divided into time periods – after awhile they had a “timeline” of stories. As we moved on to a new historical period, we could relate it to books they had already read.

    1. Laurie,
      Great idea to keep their summaries in a 3 ring binder. I like having my kids write about their readings, rather than have them do worksheets. Not only do they learn to think about their readings, you discover what is important to each child.

    1. Trish,
      You are so welcome. I still have my reading journal where I jot notes to myself about my readings. I hope this becomes a life-long habit for my kiddos.

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