Blog, Fluency & Comprehension, Picture Books

Reading Inventory and Interest Survey

We’ve all met that one child that “hates reading”.

We’ve begged and Accelerated-Reader-Points-bribed and prize-bin-coaxed that child to no avail.

Have you ever stepped back and wondered why this child has yet to fall in love with reading books for pleasure?

Could it be that we haven’t tapped into what makes their little minds crave the text on a page?

Just yesterday I was talking to my son about daily reading. I just refreshed and rearranged his own personal little library on top of his IKEA staired toy boxes with LEGO books, Star Wars Books, National Geographic books about “gross things”, and everything that he’s loved in his 7 years.

After looking through and thumbing through a few pages, he said, “Mommy – let’s go to the library to get airplane books.

Ah. Airplane books. The only lacking category of themed books upon his shelf.

In the past year, his love of airplanes and all things aeronautic has exploded. So where do you think we are going this afternoon?

Yup. The library to scour the shelves looking for airplane books.

Here’s what I’ve found over the years in the classroom and as a mother:

  1. Children’s interests change as quickly as (we hope) they change their underwear.
  2. Our idea of a “good book” might not always be their idea of a good book.
  3. If it doesn’t interest them, they don’t want it.

Here are 5 simple ways I’ve actively and successfully gotten reluctant readers to dip their toe into the pool of reading:

1) Utilize your school’s librarian and have a “Library Book Bin”

My school librarian was wonderful about coming around each week with her cart, picking up her library crate located in my classroom, and trading out books from the crate.

This crate sat in the back of my room and the books inside were not to be taken home, but it was a way for students to peruse and read both picture books and chapter books as they pleased. It contained a wide variety of genres, 3-4 different reading levels of books, and a mixture of fiction and nonfiction.

If a student ended up loving a book, when the librarian came around to collect and switch out books at the end of the week, the student would formally check out the book with the librarian.

If you don’t have a librarian that was flexible as mine, you can always go to the school’s library once or twice a month and check out books and do the same thing.
2) Rotate the “First Look Book” in your book bins each week. I know we’ve said eleventy-trillion times “Don’t judge a book by its cover…”, but let’s be honest: one of the only reasons I decided to read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens a few years ago was because of the beautiful, coral mixed colors of the sunset on the cover of the book. Granted, I ended up loving the story inside of the cover, too.

I know this sounds like a simple, mundane task, but trust me, it makes all the difference in the world to reluctant readers. You know, the ones that always are searching the book stacks, but can never seem to find a book?! Sometimes, all they need is a cover to grab them. (Upper Elementary Teachers: Remember – if students are simply looking at pictures, they are also reading the text. It’s a toe dip we are after.)

Pro-Tip: This task of rotating the first book in your bins to the front of the bin would be an excellent Classroom Job for the reluctant or struggling reader as they get ready to leave each Friday afternoon.3) Read aloud to your students. Nope, there isn’t a standard for upper grades that teachers have for reading aloud, but there are plenty that cover fluency and comprehension.
Teachers oftentimes feel like they can’t “read aloud” a novel or a picture book because it doesn’t help with test prep or there is not time.

False: There is always time for a read aloud. 

Here are just a few ways I’ve found over the years to “sneak” in a novel here and there:

    • Switch Time: While students gather their materials at the end of a class period and get ready to switch. The classroom expectations are clear: move quickly, quietly, and efficiently and your students will do just that to savor 5 minutes of a read aloud.
    • End of Day: Again, classroom expectations are clear: move quickly, quietly, and efficiently as students gather and pack up their belongings for the day. You will be surprised how well they do at this as you read aloud to them for 5-8 minutes.
    • YouTube: There are many, many read-alouds available on YouTube that have already been pre-recorded. Make this a “Fluency & Comprehension” station during Reader’s Workshop or during Centers. Assign students to listen to a chapter or two of a novel, then have a quick exit ticket to check their comprehension. Students love this. If you have the actual paper copy of the novel, have it laid out for students to follow along with as they listen.

4) Reading Interest SurveyFor the love of Pete and Polly, if you don’t do anything else, do this. Actually talk to your students about their reading experience at home, in past grade levels, and currently.

Give them this simple survey to complete. I can promise you, the results will yield great benefits for both you and your student. Students need ownership in their studies. Reading for pleasure is one of those areas. I’m sorry, but I will not be reading a Stephen King novel anytime within the near future. Not my cup of tea. But I do love thrillers on less of the gory side of life, so you’ll catch me with a Shari LaPena book or if I’ve traveling, I’ll most definitely be listening to B.A. Paris’ newest novel.

Give your students the power to choose their favorite authors and genres. Students oftentimes don’t think about reading their current interests or hobbies. They oftentimes don’t know what genre they want to listen to or pick up.

By giving them this simple Reading Inventory it tells them two things:

1) “My teacher cares about what I care about.”, and 2) “There are books about this?!”

I have two versions of my Reading Interest Survey.

I have my front/back print and copy paper version which is great for SBLC meetings, Reader’s Workshop conferences, and great background info on your students’ love (or disdain) of reading.

There are two grade level versions in this file. There is a Reading Inventory for 1st-3rd grades and one for 4th-8th graders.

For those that are far more techy than I, I have the digital version of the same Reading Inventory here.

5) Epic! Audio Books: If you haven’t tapped into the awesomeness that is Epic! then you are missing out. The number of audio books available is astounding. There are multiple genres, categories, and topics. Give students a sheet of paper and some crayons and have them doodle 3-4 scenes of the book as they are listening; boom – formative comprehension assessment done.

So tell me, which two of these simple tips are you going to try out during the school year to pique the interest of readers in your classroom?

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