Reading Instruction

What is a Reading Portfolio?

Learning to read is a journey.
Take a moment to think back to your school days. What evidence do you have of that special journey?
A test? A book report? Maybe a diorama?
Perhaps you answered yes to all of those, but how meaningful were these to you?
(I know…your diorama was the bomb…got it)
And did you ever set them all out at the end of the year to reflect on and celebrate the journey?
I suspect both questions would elicit negative answers (except for the diorama…I know).
So how can we as teachers create meaningful reading experiences for our students that give them an opportunity to look back on the journey and reflect on the success and celebrate it?
One possible way is a reading portfolio.

What is a reading portfolio?

A reading portfolio is usually in the form of a binder or notebook. It is a collection of records and student-created artifacts related to their reading over the course of the school year.
Generally, the reading portfolio would reflect books read independently, but it can also include artifacts of texts read during guided reading.
Here is what might be included in a reading portfolio for independent reading:

  1. My Reading Log (Daily or Completed Books)
  2. My Reading Interests List
  3. Books I Want to Read List
  4. Reading Responses
  5. Student-Teacher Reading Conference Log

Why do a reading portfolio?

On Marzano et al’s (2012) Teacher Scales for Reflective Practice, tracking progress and celebrating success are listed as key components. While these things can be done with tests on a regular basis throughout the year, it’s hard for students to see the path.
Secondly, how meaningful is a reading test to a student? Not at all.
How about a personal reflection? Much more so.
The reading portfolio acts almost as a personal record, not just for seeing reading/writing progress, but also seeing personal development progress. Books allow us the opportunity to reflect and change ourselves through reading. But this personal development is rarely measured by a test, a book report, or a diorama.
The reading portfolio is a vehicle for students to make meaningful connections with their reading in one place, and it gives students a tangible way to reflect on those connections and see how they have evolved as humans.

How can a reading portfolio be done?

Much of my ideas on how to do a reading portfolio are an amalgamation of Fountas and Pinnell’s (2001) recommendations for reading notebooks and the Book-Head-Heart Framework coined by Beers and Probst (2017).
I have created a Reading Portfolio Demo you can download so you can edit the components as you see fit.
The first page is the cover. I would allow students to create their own. This is an opportunity for them to be creative and personalize their portfolio from the very beginning.
The next page is the “My Reading Log.” You have two options for this. One option is you could have students write the books in when they are completed. The form found in the demo resembles that option. Alternatively, you may want to create a daily log instead. In which case, I would add “pages read” to the form.
On page 3 you will find “My Reading Interests.” This form serves two purposes. First, the form allows the student to think about what they like so that choosing books can be easier. Many students may have never actually taken the time to think about what books might interest them. Also, as students develop new interests, they can add to this list throughout the year. Second, it is a good reference for you as a teacher. It can be difficult to keep track of the interests of 20+ students. This list can help you in conferences recommend books students might like.
Page 4 is titled “Books I Want to Read.” It is a place for students to write down books they find that might be of interest to them. They might fill this out based on browsing the library, recommendations from friends, or recommendations from you. It also allows them to put a checkmark next to books they have read so they can keep track of what’s been read and what hasn’t. Of course, students do not need to go in the order they have written on the list. They should be free to jump around to different titles as they please.
The next page is the most important component, the reading response. The majority of the portfolio will be comprised of this. This will look different in every teacher’s classroom and may be different for every student within a class. It might be a letter to the teacher about the book. It might be a formal book report. It might even be a picture or poster. It may be all three, alternating for different books.
Whichever form it takes, I believe it should encompass the idea proposed by Beers and Probst: Book-Head-Heart. The response should have elements that discuss the book such as the characters, plot, etc. It should have elements from the head such as questions or observations students have about events throughout the story. And it should conclude with “heart” which is lessons learned and ways the text has changed us as a person. Doing a reading response like this will likely be foreign to your students, so be sure to teach them at the beginning of the year how to address each component. For tips on how to do this, check out Beers and Probst’s book Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters.
The reading portfolio demo concludes with a student-teacher reading conference form. This is an opportunity for you as a teacher to record your meetings with individual students about their reading. This does not have to be a time-consuming process. It can simply be asking the student “What are you reading about?” as you circulate the room during independent reading time. The comments section should be simple, too. You could write interesting observations the student shares, recommendations for future books, or other short notes for both you and the student.


In this age of testing, many classrooms have lost sight of what reading is really about- a personal connection with a text. While tests certainly serve a purpose and can provide vital information for our teaching, they should not be the only thing students associate reading with.
The reading portfolio is an assessment opportunity that goes beyond testing. It is a very personal and meaningful record of a student’s thoughts about the reading they do. And at the end of the year, it gives everyone something worth celebrating- an amazing journey with books.
What else would you add to a reading portfolio? Let me know in the comments below.


Beers, G. K., & Probst, R. E. (2017). Disrupting thinking: why how we read matters. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc.
Fountas, I. C., & Pinnell, G. S. (2001). Guiding readers and writers: teaching comprehension, genre, and content literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Marzano, R. J., Boogren, T., Heflebower, T., Kanold-McIntyre, J., & Pickering, D. (2012). Becoming a reflective teacher. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research Laboratory.

2 thoughts on “What is a Reading Portfolio?

  1. Excellent post. Very informative and easy to follow guides to make reading fun. Great idea for the early finishers. I will implement this as an incentive. Thanks for your contribution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top