I have used reading notebook for a number of years. I have changed it a million times. I have changed the format, the amount of entries, and the amount of times I collect them.
I have to be honest--I am not disciplined enough about grading them. I have tried a number of things to help. I usually start the year very strong, but as I get busier, and we get more familiar with each other, I don't look at them like I should. Hopefully, this year's method will help this dilemma.
I do like that they really help me to get to know my students and their reading a lot better. I give them a sheet of response starters to help them get going, and I can often tell the readers who struggle more because all they can tell me about is a little bit of what is happening in the book. With third graders, it is often a new skill, so I have to do a lot of modeling and talking about what I might say in a response besides just retelling the plot.
This year, I plan to try Kidblog with my students for their book responses. Students will be responsible for one blog per week in which they talk to me about their book. I think I will start the year with prompts, but as the year goes, I want to allow them more choice in their blogs. I do have plenty of other classroom times when I ask the students for reading responses. These will supplement our blogs. Hopefully, using Kidblog offers some excitement for my students, and it will be more efficient--less space to store our notebooks and easier access for me (and no notebooks to carry around).
In my CAFE binder, I will have a spot for reading response still. This way, students can take notes while reading and put them in there for themselves or to use when composing their blogs. We use a lot of post-it notes while reading, so students will be able to write on a post-it note and then just stick it in this section of their CAFE binder.
My biggest goal with reading responses this year is to talk with the kids about their responses during conferencing. That way I can work with them more on this writing skill while discussing their books. I will still give them feedback to their blogs by commenting, too.