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Reading Interest Inventory Purpose and Use

Katie McDonnell, Christopher Muscato
  • Author
    Katie McDonnell

    Katie McDonnell is an educator of fourteen years who enjoys finding new ways to teach outside the classroom walls. She graduated from Westfield State University with a Bachelor of Science in Education specializing in Elementary Education and Liberal Arts. Mrs. McDonnell taught for 14 years in Florida in grades second through sixth in all subject areas and one year as the Media Specialist. She has a professional teaching license from the state of Florida with certification in ESOL K-12, Elementary Education 1-6, Middle Grades Integrated Curriculum 5-9, and Educational Media Specialist K-12.

  • Instructor
    Christopher Muscato

    Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Learn about the reading interest inventory and understand how it works. Explore the purpose of a reading interest survey and see how it helps teachers and students. Updated: 03/04/2022

What is a Reading Interest Inventory?

A reading interest inventory also sometimes referred to as a reading interest survey, is a questionnaire given to encourage students' interest in reading. It can be written, oral, or online depending on the students' abilities and needs of the classroom. Questions can include the kinds of books they like and dislike, their attitudes about reading, and other opinions having to do with reading and literature. It is given to students for many reasons, but its most important function is to find out what books or stories they do and don't like. It also helps the teacher understand the needs of the students and what books or lessons to include in the reading curriculum. A major goal of giving the reading interest inventory is to encourage students to read more and to instill in them a love of reading.

Purpose of a Reading Inventory for Students

When teachers use a reading inventory for students, they can learn what kinds of books students enjoy reading. Teachers can use that information to build a classroom library offering similar or other books designed to further students' love of reading. For example, if students say they love the Goosebumps series, teachers can introduce other scary stories. Those new stories can be used to further a student's excitement for reading and continue a love of reading. Teachers and other administrators should use information from these surveys to find similar kinds of books to purchase or otherwise provide easy access. Having a strong interest in what they are reading helps increase students' desire to read and, therefore, will support them in other areas like fluency and comprehension, which can be helped by independent reading.


A lifelong love of reading can be developed by allowing students to chose their own reading materials based on their interests.

two girls are reading a book together outside in a field


How the Reading Interest Inventory Works

A reading interest inventory is usually given at the beginning of the school year. Teachers can use the information to plan out many different lessons and ideas for the classroom. Some typical questions may include:

  • Do you like to read? Why or why not?
  • What is your favorite book?
  • What is your favorite book series?
  • Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction? Why?
  • What types of books do you enjoy reading?
  • What types of books do you not enjoy reading?

The inventory can be given on paper and is usually done this way for upper elementary, middle school, and high school students. It can also be given electronically, which has many benefits, including using software that can compile the books into an easy-to-read list. For younger elementary students and students who have difficulty writing, giving the survey orally is a usually a quick activity that provides a great deal of information about the students. When giving the inventory orally, many teachers have students use the First to Five test. Teachers hold up a book and explain to students that if they love the book, they should hold up five fingers, and if they don't like the book, they should hold up one finger. Students can also use the numbers in between if they only like it a little or if it's a good book, but not their favorite. Using this method is a great way to quickly organize students into interest groups or plan for a read aloud that will hold the students' interest.

How to Use a Reading Interest Survey

Teachers can use the information from the survey in many different ways. The main way the survey is used is to help select reading material that students actually want to read so they will stay engaged with the story and keep reading. The inventories should also be used to make sure there is a time for reading set aside for the students to chose their own reading material. Ideally this would happen everyday but as much as it can be fit into a schedule, it should be.

The survey's information is used to create lesson plans, set up independent reading time in class, purchase high-interest books for a classroom, or set up book groups or small group literature circles. By using it to purchase reading materials, it gives the students access to a wide range of reading materials that they may not find in a textbook or curriculum-based reading program.

A Reading Interest Inventory

By this point in our lives, most of us agree that reading is pretty awesome. We read for education, for relaxation, for entertainment. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm is not shared by all. Learning to read can be a difficult process for many children. For those to whom this does not come naturally, the thought of having to read can be stressful and intimidating. So, as educators, it is our job to not only teach children to read, but to motivate them to want to read on their own, outside of a school setting.

Students who read independently will become better readers, but they're not likely to do this if they don't enjoy reading. Thankfully, some very smart educators have put a lot of thought and time into this and have come up with some practical solutions. One of these is the reading interest inventory, a survey to establish a child's reading interests. This technique helps teachers combat reading difficulties by tailoring individual reading strategies unique to each child, designed to pique their interest and teach them what we adults already know: reading is pretty awesome.

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How It Works

Okay, so what exactly does the reading interest inventory look like? Basically, it's a short survey designed to identify the parts of reading that interest a student the most. Common questions include things like:

  • What are your favorite books you've ever read?
  • Rank these genres of books from your most favorite to least favorite.
  • What are your favorite hobbies?

There are dozens of these inventories available online and through educational research publishers, but the general idea is to figure out where the student's interests are. Now, since this survey is designed for those students who are struggling with reading, you may have to give the survey orally.

For younger students, many teachers also turn to the First to Five Test, asking students to hold up a number of fingers to indicate their interest. Read the title and the first page of a story, then have the student hold up a number of fingers to indicate how interesting this is to them, where one finger is not interested at all and five fingers is very interested.

Purpose

So, what's the point of the survey? This is not a tool to specifically teach reading skills. It's all about motivation. The theory is that by understanding student's interests the teacher can provide the books that will be the most fun for them to read. If we can get students excited about reading, they will be much more likely to voluntarily read on their own outside of school, which is critical for their development as readers.

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Video Transcript

A Reading Interest Inventory

By this point in our lives, most of us agree that reading is pretty awesome. We read for education, for relaxation, for entertainment. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm is not shared by all. Learning to read can be a difficult process for many children. For those to whom this does not come naturally, the thought of having to read can be stressful and intimidating. So, as educators, it is our job to not only teach children to read, but to motivate them to want to read on their own, outside of a school setting.

Students who read independently will become better readers, but they're not likely to do this if they don't enjoy reading. Thankfully, some very smart educators have put a lot of thought and time into this and have come up with some practical solutions. One of these is the reading interest inventory, a survey to establish a child's reading interests. This technique helps teachers combat reading difficulties by tailoring individual reading strategies unique to each child, designed to pique their interest and teach them what we adults already know: reading is pretty awesome.

How It Works

Okay, so what exactly does the reading interest inventory look like? Basically, it's a short survey designed to identify the parts of reading that interest a student the most. Common questions include things like:

  • What are your favorite books you've ever read?
  • Rank these genres of books from your most favorite to least favorite.
  • What are your favorite hobbies?

There are dozens of these inventories available online and through educational research publishers, but the general idea is to figure out where the student's interests are. Now, since this survey is designed for those students who are struggling with reading, you may have to give the survey orally.

For younger students, many teachers also turn to the First to Five Test, asking students to hold up a number of fingers to indicate their interest. Read the title and the first page of a story, then have the student hold up a number of fingers to indicate how interesting this is to them, where one finger is not interested at all and five fingers is very interested.

Purpose

So, what's the point of the survey? This is not a tool to specifically teach reading skills. It's all about motivation. The theory is that by understanding student's interests the teacher can provide the books that will be the most fun for them to read. If we can get students excited about reading, they will be much more likely to voluntarily read on their own outside of school, which is critical for their development as readers.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is a reading interest inventory important?

A reading interest inventory is important because using texts students actually want to read helps shape them to become lifelong readers. By providing reading materials they enjoy, students will want to read and increase fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

How do you measure reading interest?

Creating a reading interest survey can be done orally, written on paper, or digitally. As long as students provide answers to questions about their likes and dislikes of genres and other kinds of books, the reading interest inventory can be given in any method best suited to the students.

What is the purpose of a reading survey?

The purpose of the reading survey is to purchase or provide books that align with the students likes and dislikes. Ideally, students would also be provided time to enjoy these books independently.

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