At Gareth's school they send book bags home with the kids - Ziploc bags with some books and a reading log in them. They use the letters A-Z to help guide the kids to books that are "just right" for them. Last year this whole system was pretty relaxed. Using the bags wasn't required and the log was mostly for the parents' benefit, to help them remember what books their kids had already checked out from the class library. Ryan and I completely ignored the A-Z levels, because we feel we read because it's fun, not to make sure our kid moves from one level to another during the year.
Gareth came home with his bag at the end of last week and, so far as I can tell, it works similarly to last year, except that the kids are supposed to read their books for twenty minutes each day, logging the minutes as well as the book, level, author, etc. And that it's technically their homework. After just a couple days I've decided I don't like this. I can see how it'd be helpful for some kids who don't like to read or parents who want some help carving out time to read with their kids, and even for the teachers because I'm more likely to remember to fill out the log this way. But I'm worried that for Gareth it'll eventually turn reading into a chore rather than a fun activity. Already, after just a few days, the focus with the books from school is not enjoying the story but getting the minutes done. "Has it been twenty minutes yet?" is asked several times while reading. It's been obvious that his focus is not solely on the book and the story.
Now, I know that he reads for at least twenty minutes each day. We often read a bedtime story together and then he reads in his bed before going to sleep. I have no idea for how long, but my guess is that it's usually at least half an hour, if not closer to an hour. And he often reads first thing in the morning as well. So I'm thinking we're going to stop worrying about the twenty minutes. I'm sure he'll read the books from school because he's choosing them himself. We'll log them, and if the teacher really wants minutes, make up some numbers (I'm doubtful she'll care that much about the numbers considering how well he reads). He may not do the reading right when he gets home from school, and he may not read those particular books for twenty minutes, but I just can't get myself to see either of those things as more important than finding reading fun.