Top Teaching > Beth Newingham > The Reader's Notebook

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The Reader's Notebook

Readers Notebook Recording Once I did away with the basal many years ago and adopted the Reading Workshop approach in my classroom, I quickly realized that my students needed a place to organize their reading materials, keep track of the books they read, and record the thinking they do about their reading.  After trying out a variety of different versions of a Reader's Notebook, including a spiral notebook and a Duo-Tang folder, I finally determined that a binder was the most user-friendly solution. 

A binder works so well for my readers because it provides them with an efficient way to add new handouts, quickly access information, and easily refer to previous reading responses in the six carefully organized sections of the binder.

I can't imagine running my Reading Workshop without having my students maintain a Reader's Notebook.  It is in this notebook that students build their reading lives over the course of the year.  READ ON to learn more about the sections I include in my Reader's Notebook and find links to download the resources I include in each section.


The Reader's Notebook


My Reader's Notebook is a one-inch view binder with a personalized cover and a spine labeled with each student's name. The binder has six sections that are separated with colored, labeled tabs.



Below is a description of what I include in each section.

1. Reading Log

Reading log scan I chose this as the first section in the notebook because it's something that students need to access easily and often. Every time my students complete a book, they record the book's title and author, and the date they complete the book.  After learning about the different genres in our library, students also record the book's genre using a genre code. (See section two for more details about genre.)  I find it necessary for my students to also include the book's color coded level and then determine if the book was E (easy), JR (just right), or C (challenging) after they have finished reading it. 

Recording the actual level with their corresponding level of comfort with the book is an important component of my reading log because my students are constantly encouraged to reflect on their personal reading growth.  It's through the regular recording of their books that students realize when a color code is becoming easier for them as the year progresses. It's at this point that they may decide to try out a book at a higher level.  Students revisit their reading log often when making connections between books they are currently reading and books they have read previously.  They also use their reading log to create genre graphs at the end of each unit of study (see section two).

I choose to print multiple copies of the reading log on card stock instead of regular paper so the reading log pages do not rip out of the students' binders.  This record of reading is such an important reflection of each student's reading growth over the school year, so spending a little extra money on card stock to make sure the log stays in the binder is worth it to me!

Download Reading Log


2. Genres

Genre definitions Genre Overview

The first resource in this section is the "Genre Overview" sheet.  At the beginning of the year when students are still becoming familiar with the characteristics of each genre and the corresponding genre codes, I can direct them to this sheet without having to meet with students every time they're not sure of the genre of a particular book. I use the genre codes suggested by Fountas and Pinnell.

Download "Genre Overview"



Genre Graphs

Genre Graph

At the end of every unit of study, students count up the number of books they have read in each genre and record the number on the "What Genres Am I Reading?" sheet. They then use the information to create a genre graph that reflects their variety (or lack of variety) of reading during IDR time. The graphs are often a wake-up call for students who get too comfortable reading a single genre, and they are a great way for me to get a quick overview of what each student is choosing to read. The results of the genre graphs often lead students to set genre-specific reading goals each month. (See more information about setting reading goals in section three.)

Download "What Genres Am I Reading?"

Download Genre Graph 0–5

Download Genre Graph 0–10

Download Genre Graph 0–20

Download Genre Graph 0–30

3. Goals and Progress

This is another important section on my Reader's Notebook because it is a place for students to really keep track of their growth as a reader throughout the year. This section is great for showing parents or referring to when completing report cards.

Students' Personal Reading Goals

Reading Goals The first resource in this section is the "My Reading Goals" sheet.  At the beginning of each month, my students set goals for themselves as readers. Of course I do quite a bit of modeling prior to asking students to set their own goals. I encourage students to set a goal in at least three of the categories listed below. I added sample goals in each category. 


Word Attack & Fluency Goals

 Use more expression when I read.

 Use the strategy ______________ to decode unfamiliar words.

 Pay more attention to punctuation when I read (periods, quotation marks, commas, etc.).

 Read a minimum of ___ pages each day.


Genre Goals

• Read a book from the ________ genre this month.

• Read ___ books in the ___________ genre this month.

• Try reading a book from the __________ series this month because I haven’t tried this series before.

• Read ____ chapter books this month.

• Become an expert on _________ by reading books about this topic.


Thinking Goals

• Stop after every chapter and think about what I am reading.

• Use Post-it notes as stop signs to make myself “stop and think.”

• Reread when something doesn’t make sense.


Reading Behavior Goals

• Remember to record every book I read.

• Read without distracting others.

• Read only books that are just right for me.

• Always do the IDR task that is assigned.



Color Code Form

Color code The second resource in this section is the "What Is My Just Right Color?" sheet.  This sheet is used as a visual record of a student's progression through the color codes in our classroom library throughout the school year.  When I see students choosing to read books well below or above their "just right" color code, I can quickly flip to this section of their notebook and remind them of the books they should be reading.

Download Color Code Form



Books I Plan to Read

Optional resources in this section include the "Books I Plan to Read" sheet and the "Chapter Books vs. Picture Books" recording sheet.  Since students may find books in the classroom library that they are interested in reading but are too challenging for them at a certain point in the year, they are encouraged to record those books on the "Books I Plan to Read" sheet so that they can remember to choose those books when they do feel more comfortable at the higher level.  Students may even use this sheet to plan future reading of "just right" books by certain authors or books that are part of a favorite series.

Download "Books I Plan to Read"


Chapter Books vs. Picture Books

The "Chapter Books vs. Picture Books" sheet is used when I have students who should be reading chapter books but who are instead reading picture books the majority of the time.  Third grade is a transitional year for many readers.  While students want to read chapter books at the beginning of the year, I find that many readers will fall back into picture books because they are a quick, "easy-to-read" choice.  Setting goals in this area is helpful for some readers.

Download "Chapter Books vs. Picture Books"



4. Mini-Lesson Handouts

TOC There are times when I want to provide students with a helpful handout that will assist them with an independent reading task or a sheet that I think they might want to reference when reading on their own.  Examples include decoding strategies, class charts (that I type up after a mini-lesson), etc.  I like this section because students can easily access resources from mini-lessons during independent reading, and I can also refer to the handouts when conferring with students if I find it necessary to reference a specific lesson or concept I have previously taught.  I make sure to only ask students to add a handout to their table of contents if I truly think they may refer to it at a later time.  Each time students add a handout to their binder, they write the title of the handout on their "Mini-Lesson Handout Table of Contents" and write a page number on the bottom of the handout.

Download "Mini-Lesson Handouts Table of Contents"



IMG_0799 5. Reading Partnerships

I will do a separate post on reading partnerships later in the year, but this section is a place for students to keep all of the recording sheets from this unit in one safe place so that they are not misplaced when students need to meet with their partners. Take a look at my Reading Partnership Unit.




6. Reading Response

Reading response When transitioning from an actual notebook to a binder, it was difficult for me to determine what this section of my Reader's Notebook would look like.  When using a spiral notebook, it was hard for my 3rd graders to keep their responses organized, and I was frustrated when trying to read their responses. This section of my binder is now more structured. There are three ways that students respond to their reading on a daily basis.


IDR Task Sheets

I ask students to use these task sheets when I just want them to do a quick task when reading during IDR (individualized daily reading) time. I want my students reading for the majority of IDR time and am careful not to always give them tasks that take up the entire time that should be spent reading self-selected texts from their book box.


Download IDR Task Sheet


Sticky Note Tracker Sheet

Sticky note pages There are other times when I just want them to write about their reading on sticky notes as they make their way through their books.  I tell my students to "talk back" to their books as they read.  Whenever they talk back to their book, they leave a sticky note on that page.   Although I confer with students often, I can't be there with them during every book they read.  For this reason, I ask them to take the sticky notes out of their books when they are done and attach them to a "Sticky Note Tracker Sheet" that is then added to their Reader's Notebook.  This way I can see the thinking that is taking place on a regular basis and use it as a tool to guide my individual conversations and necessary instruction with specific students.

Download "Sticky Note Tracker Sheet"


Reading Response Topics

Students also have lined paper in this last section of their notebook.  While the IDR task sheets and the "Sticky Note Tracker Sheets" are used when I want students to quickly record their thinking as they read or show their understanding of a mini-lesson concept, the reading response topics are to be used when I expect students to truly write about their reading.  As a class, we create a rubric that is used to evaluate the quality of students' responses.  Students are required to complete a reading response entry twice a month.  For students who I believe need to be challenged, I may ask request weekly responses.

Download Reading Response Topics


Reader's Notebook Assessment


Readers notebook rubricSince students are constantly using their Reader's Notebook to record books they've read, reflect on their reading, track their reading progress, talk back to their books, and set reading goals, it is important that I take time to check in on their work.  It is also important to hold my students accountable for maintaining their Reader's Notebook and using it to improve their reading.  For this reason, I created a Reader's Notebook Rubric that I use to assess the effort, care, and thought that is put into each student's notebook.

Whenever I formally assess the notebooks, I have the students take them home for their parents to review as well.  It is important for parents to observe their child's reading growth over the year, and the Reader's Notebook is a very concrete way for parents to see it.

Download Reader's Notebook Rubric



Reader's Notebook Storage

I like to have my students' Reader's Notebooks kept with their book boxes in one place.  This way students need to make only one stop on their way to the reading carpet for the mini-lesson.  Their notebooks are kept right next to their book boxes on special bookshelves in our classroom.



Assessment in the Reading Workshop

Check back soon for my next post that will focus on assessment in the Reading Workshop. I will describe the ways I formally and informally assess my readers on a regular basis and how I then use the information to guide my future teaching.




  • #1 Ashlyn

    Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 05:36 AM

    Hi Beth, I am from Australia and have adapted this into my classroom! It works a treat... amazing, my kids & I love it!!!
    Question though, the website that you get your tubs and other things from called really good stuff is fantastic but is there any way I can purchase stuff and get it sent to me here? Its fantastic!???

  • #2 Wendla Dyer

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 09:23 PM

    Hi Beth, I am switching to second grade this year. How would you change, if anything, your Reader's Workshop for those beginning of the year second graders. I have learned so much from your website. A colleague and I are making many of your literacy centers! Thank you!

  • #3 Beth Newingham

    Wednesday, June 02, 2010 at 02:41 PM


    Good luck implementing the reading activities and coming up with a theme for next year!


  • #4 Marisela Leija

    Tuesday, June 01, 2010 at 02:56 PM

    I am going to try to implement your reading activities next year. I love the Theme I am thinking of one for our first graders next year. Thanks for all the posted activities.

  • #5 Beth Newingham

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 02:49 PM


    I actually wrote a post specifically about assessment in Reading Workshop. Here is a link to the post:

    Let me know if you still have questions after reading it!


  • #6 Monica Klump

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    I would love more information on your assessment for the reader's workshop.

  • #7 Beth Newingham

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 02:26 PM


    Thanks so much for your comments. It is always great to hear from teachers who are finding my materials to be useful! The most fulfilling part of working with Scholastic has been to hear from teachers like you!


  • #8 Beth Newingham

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 02:19 PM


    You asked if students purchased the binders that we use in our classroom for reading and writing. In the past, there has been money in our school budget to purchase binders, and we have been able to use them for 2 years. However, the kids really do like to take home their entire Reader's Notebook (binder included), so we are thinking we will add a 1-inch white view binder to our school supply list for parents to purchase next school year.

    I purchased the colored book baskets in my classroom library from

    Here is a link to the baskets:

    Thanks for your comments!


  • #9 Karen

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 01:53 PM

    Hi Beth,
    I just wanted to send a note of thanks for sharing such amazing, and easy, ideas for reading in my classroom. I have been implementing many of the strategies and ideas shared on your website and have found a huge difference in my independent reading activities. My students love to "Talk Back" (sticky notes) to their books. I appreciate all your generosity and passion in our profession.

  • #10 Carrie W.

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    Hi Beth,
    Do you have your students purchase the 1-inch and 1/2 inch binders that you use for your reading & writing workshops each year? Or, do you reuse binders year after year? Also, where did you purchase the colored book baskets for you classroom library?

    By the way, your website & ideas are inspiring...thanks for sharing!

  • #11 Kristi

    Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 10:15 PM

    I will be a first year teacher in the fall (3rd grade) and I love your ideas! I was curious if you had a document which contains the selection of books you have in your classroom? Im trying to build my classroom library and need some ideas for books in different genres.

  • #12 Michelle

    Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 08:20 PM

    Is this too much for 2nd graders to do for reading workshop? What would you recommend for a 2nd grade notebook?

  • #13 Beth Newingham

    Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 01:30 PM


    Here are some answers to your questions:

    1. I get my book boxes from Here is a link to the book boxes:

    2. I was a part of a committee in my district that has been writing our own units of study for reading workshop. I can't share those here, but here is a link to a great website with some reading workshop units for all grade levels:

    3. You can find information about my spelling program on my website. Click on "Literacy Links" in the sidebar menu and then choose "Word Study." Here is a link to my website:

    4. Many of the fonts I use are from a "School Fonts" CD that I can no longer find available to purchase (including the polka dot font), but I also get many of my fonts from different websites. Here are links to some of my favorite font websites:

    5. I have done many reading workshop presentations for teachers in my district and surrounding districts.

    I hope I have answered all of your questions!!


  • #14 Beth Newingham

    Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 01:20 PM


    Thanks for reading the blog and for posting your comments! I'm glad my resources have been helpful to you!

    It was exciting to see a comment from a teacher in New Zealand!!


  • #15 Beth Newingham

    Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 01:18 PM


    I have no experience teaching Kindergarten, so I am not completely familiar with the ability level of students at this age. Since a great deal of the notebook requires students to be writing about their reading and recording books, I am guessing such a resource would likely be too challenging and probably not very worthwhile for students at this age.

    Are there any kindergarten teachers out there reading this blog whose students keep any type of reader's notebook?

    I wish I could be of more help!


  • #16 Jennifer

    Thursday, May 13, 2010 at 10:00 AM

    Your website is amazing. Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful ideas. I am wanting to implement the readers workshop in my classroom next year. I have a few questions for you.

    Where did you purchase your book boxes?

    Where do you get all of your mini-lesson for group and guided reading time?

    Do you do whole group spelling?

    Where do you get all of your cute fonts? I especially like the polka dot font and the bigger block fonts you have used for your classroom posters?

    Have you ever done any workshops for teachers? Are you willing to do that?

  • #17 Dan Oades

    Saturday, May 08, 2010 at 12:34 AM

    Thanks you so much for all these resources. You have positively changed my reading programme!
    Dan Oades
    Auckland, New Zealand

  • #18 Diane

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 08:44 PM

    I teach Kindergarten - any suggestions on how to adapt the notebook for K?

  • #19 Beth Newingham

    Saturday, April 17, 2010 at 12:11 PM


    Here is a link to the Teacher's College wesbite where you can learn more about the reading institute I referenced in comment #91:


  • #20 Beth Newingham

    Saturday, April 17, 2010 at 11:03 AM


    You asked about where I was trained for reading workshop. To be honest, most of my "training" came from my own reading professional books on the topic. There are some great books out there! Here is a link to my favorite professional books about reading workshop:

    I also attended Lucy Calkin's Columbia Teacher's College Reading Institute a few years ago. It was a wonderfully helpful week of training for me!


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