Posted by: Elizabeth Grochan | March 22, 2012

Reading Interest Inventory

Reading interest inventory…why should we as teachers give one to our students?

“This decline in interest in reading may have much to do with the kinds of reading materials and experiences students encounter in school (Moss & Terrell, 2010).”

“Interest motivates students to read, prompts them to read more difficult material, and can result in more time spent reading (Kragler & Nolley, 1996).

I think we can all agree that students prefer to read what interests them. And when a student finds a book or topic of interest, even a reluctant reader, their desire to read increases.

By providing a reading interests inventory, as well as observing my students on a daily basis, I will develop an understanding of what interests them. By knowing their interests I can provide suggestions and steer them in the right direction of books I believe they will enjoy reading.

Depending on the interests of my students, I would like to set up displays of books around the classroom. If I see that many students have an interest in space, I would like to set up a display with nonfiction and fiction books that have to do with space, space travel, etc. Maybe even have something like a telescope for students to see. Not only would the displays represent what I feel the students will enjoy based on their interest inventory and observations of my students throughout the year, classroom library selection would represent this also.

I would like to create the interest inventories with my students help. Instead of just administering the inventories, I think it would be a good idea to brain storm ideas and questions the students think they should answer to share what interests them. I would supply examples along the way as well as guiding ideas but in the end I want the inventory to be a class project. I also want my students to share their interest inventories. I think that if we discuss and share our interests with on another students will see what they have in common with one another. This can also provide a chance for suggestions and book talks if you think someone is interested in something you enjoyed. I would like to each student to have a blog, and on their blog an area that has their interest inventory.

Students will routinely write reviews of books, and I want them to compare and contrast books. So in their review they can say something like, “if you liked this book, you will definitely enjoy this book.” Learning to compare books and understanding what made it appealing for you as the reader I feel helps guide you to discovering other books you may enjoy as well as providing someone else with ideas of what to read based on a similar interest.

I know that by choosing books FOR my students they are uninterested in is a sure way to lose them as readers. My goal is to read as many books as possible so that I can provide suggestions as much as possible that I feel they will enjoy based on not only the quality of the material but also based on a student’s interest. While I may be able to predict what I think is a good book that everyone should enjoy, there is never a guarantee.

Currently 2 of my friends and I have been discussing our struggle with the desire to read, or in some cases, reread the classics (You know, Phantom of the Opera, Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, etc). We consider ourselves huge readers! These are the friends that routinely blog and review books. Yet the classics seem to hold little interests for us right now, so getting through them is difficult. If we are struggling to read the classics as adults who are choosing to do so, I can only imagine the torture many students feel when having to pick up one of these books or another uninteresting book just because a teacher says they have to. For me, I hate the feeling of feeling forced to finish something I don’t want to read. Once I become unengaged with what I am reading it is a struggle to get to the end, and many times I just stop. Reading is a pleasure for me, so unless I have to I do not like to feel forced into reading something I don’t want to. There may be people reading this going ‘WHAT you hate the classics! And you call yourself a reading teacher…’ (Maybe that’s just what my brain tells me). And I wouldn’t say I hate the classics. I remember reading many in high school that I didn’t hate, but in the end it wasn’t a pleasurable experience and I have no real desire say hmmm, been awhile since I read The Great Gatsby, where is that copy I have laying around (ok confession time, I hated reading the Great Gatsby and no I do not own a copy).  I have a friend on the other hand that prefers to read books that fall into the category of the classics. But that is her interest, not mine. I do not expect everyone to want to read what I read, and I hate when people express disappointment in me not reading a certain book or not enjoying a books I read. Who says I have to enjoy all books, and who says students have to enjoy books teachers have said they have to read. What I want to make sure they do have is a respect for all literature and the choices others make in what they read.

I do want to make sure my students are familiar with classical works of literature and maybe some of them will enjoy them like my friend does. I may decide to make the reading instruction of certain classics a little different to engage my readers more though. If I do use a classical book in my classroom, such as Treasure Island or Tom Sawyer, I would like to allow students a choice of a few to read instead of picking just one in hopes of sparking interests.

Just because a book is a classic or an award winner does not mean every person has to enjoy it. There are plenty of regular books that are out there that are just as good and that people enjoy reading. Providing as many genres and various topics for my students will allow for the best chance of sparking interest in reading for my students.

I am sure along the way, I am going to choose a book for students to read or a book I read during a read aloud that someone with dislike. That is fine, but we can discuss what they disliked about it. I may not be able to always allow students to read only what they want to read. But I want to do my best to give students as much say in what they read as possible.



Reading Interest Inventory in action

Since I am a nonpracticing teacher, I went to visit Elizabeth Archor’s classroom. At the beginning of the year she had already administered an interest inventory, and with this assignment she administered a second to her students. Both inventories were administered prior to my visit, so she invited me to come observe her reading block to see her kids in action as well as give me a tour of her classroom and how her class uses the reading block.

She has her students divided into smaller groups by ability level which I believe is a central key. This way students can work with others on their level with appropriate materials and she is able to provide instruction with each group that is adequate for learning. The reading block is divided into 3 stations. Depending on the group, the day of the week, and the time students know what station they should be reading in. Prior to the stations beginning, all students are given SSR time. In addition to SSR, stations in the block give time to areas such as vocabulary study, small group reading at their instructional level and genre reading (various baskets hold genre books student can choose from than respond to).

I found that she used the interest inventory is a few ways. The interest inventory provides a way for students to refer to something when deciding what kind of book they want to read for self-selection. Her knowledge of their interests also gives her a way to help provide suggestions for those unsure what to choose. By looking for similar interest amongst her students she is also able to choose books for class reads that appeal to a larger range of students and bring in books of this category into the classroom students can than choose from.  After noticing that a large amount of her students like soccer, Elizabeth worked with her librarian and have pulled all the soccer books from the shelves and set up a display that is easily accessible.

Not only does the reading interest inventory supply a way of getting to know what students enjoy for reading, it can also provide ideas on writing topics. When journal writing, if a student is unsure what to write about, Elizabeth suggests taking out the interest inventory for ideas.

I want to thank Elizabeth for letting me come into her classroom and visit with her students and to see her reading block in action. I was only there for a short time so I am sure I forgot some of the other great things she had going on there, but I was very impressed how well her students seemed to be doing as well as enjoyed how she worked choice and interests into what her students were reading, as well as changing up the learning with different stations and instruction.



  1. Elizabeth G,
    I understand your goal of reading the classics. Sometimes we must try something new and by setting a goal, involving friends and sharing the good and the bad we can grow as readers. Your experience will come in handy when you are teaching and introducing a genre that is not well received. You will have a wonderful story to share…”I remember the time my friends and I vowed to read the classics”…

    Thanks for stopping by my class, we enjoyed your visit!
    Elizabeth A

  2. I am proud of you for beginning your book collection now. You will never know just what you need, but you may be surprised that most of the books you’ve collected will probably work for any grade level! I liked your idea of simply making the students part of interest inventory. After all, they are the ones that will be affected! Isn’t the donors choose project a wonderful idea? I know that you can’t take advantage of it right now, but you have that as an option for your future!

  3. I like your idea of allowing the students to have input into the interest inventory. After all, it will be them that’s affected by your choices! You are so smart to begin a book collection now. Even though you’re not sure what grade you will be teaching, you may be surprised what may interest your students once you get them! And, aren’t you glad to know about the donorschoose program? You may not be able to apply now, but once you get that classroom, you will have your ideas ready!

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