Value of a Family Reading Interview

Last week I decided to add a new assignment to my “Getting to Know Ourselves as Readers” unit in reading workshop.  I paged through a few of my resources looking for inspiration.  While flipping through Beyond Leveled Books, Second Edition I came across the family reading interview. I took the idea and ran with it!

I adjusted the questions to fit my students/grade level and was very happy with the results. Students were required to interview one member of their family (high school senior or older) about their reading experiences. They asked about the genres they enjoyed, genres they don’t enjoy, how they choose books, and favorite childhood reads. The students were then required to put all the answers into paragraph form, with their own commentary, forming an essay. I was looking forward to reading some interesting interviews when I collected them today.

I had no idea how amazing the interviews would turn out to be! I’ve already graded 2 classes and they are awesome! My students really got to know their interviewees and shared so much. They learned that they might have a lot in common with mom or dad, or might be the complete opposite. A few students shared their relief in learning that mom or dad wasn’t always a voracious reader. They said it gave them hope that they might also “get the reading gene” at some point. (That’s what I’m hoping to cultivate this year!)

Students also enjoyed learning about their parents’ favorite books. Especially their childhood favorites. I saw everything from Flowers in the Attic and Forever to The Velveteen Rabbit and Peter Rabbit. Quite a collection!

I am so thrilled with the connections that occurred while my students held the interviews with their family members. I learned so much about their families and they learned so much about the person/people they interviewed. I would highly recommend doing a family reading interview in your class! It can definitely be adapted for any grade level!

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9 Responses

  1. This sounds great! I think this would be very beneficial in our classroom. Do you have a copy of the interview or examples of questions you asked? Thanks!

  2. I love this. It’s always great to provide assignments that get students involved in conversations with their parents — especially at the middle school level. I can’t wait to try it out, too.

  3. I hate to be negative as it sounds as if it was a great success, but I always worry about the outliers. Say a student whose family culture is not one of reading. Or where the adults had unhappy memories related to learning to read and thus no childhood favorites. Were there any situations like that?

  4. Don’t feel guilty, Monica. It’s a very valid question. First, I allowed the children to interview anyone in their family, from high school students to parents to grandparents, and even those close family friends we always call “aunt” or “uncle” (despite the lack of blood relation). That solved a lot of my problems.

    I also expanded the definition of reading. Most students assumed reading only meant novels. Once I reiterated that reading covers so much more they were relieved. One student interviewed his father about reading ESPN.com and sports message boards. He didn’t have a favorite book, but he and his son bonded over their love of sports stories, stats, and informational text.

    Because I allowed the students to adjust the questions to fit their situation, it worked out well. Most interviewed someone who enjoyed reading novels or non-fiction as a past time, but I did have a few who talked about magazines, reading for work, and a lack of time to read as a mom.

    I also had a few students who did interview relatives who had bad reading/learning experiences. Those students turned in amazing interviews where they really thought about their parents’ experiences and how it affected their own view of reading.

  5. This does sound like a great experience. I am glad that it worked so well for you from the first time you tried it.

    I was curious about your demographics. Did you find any students who had a hard time finding a family member to interview (for example if their parents are not readers or if they did not grow up in a text rich setting)?

  6. I have seen this in the Beyond Leveled Books and found it very interesting. We have a Family Lit Night this month. I think I will get a survey via Google Docs or Survey Monkey and have parents fill it out.

  7. I love it! This idea just made it to the top of my ever expanding priority list! Thanks!

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  9. […] important to help kids learn to love books, and how to do it in the classroom. Sarah also shared an interesting post recently about the value of the “family reading […]

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