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What is your reading personality? Which reading super-hero are you?

dontlikeHow do you find just the right book to recommend for a kid?  It’s trickier than discovering that they like mysteries or even a very specific type of science fiction.

What makes a certain book a yes for one kid reader and a clear no for another?

The question deeply troubled former independent children’s bookseller and Baltimore (Howard County Central) children’s librarian Barb Langridge.  Her abookandahug website is devoted to helping kids, parents, teachers and librarians find just the right book for every kid.

All mysteries are not created equal… someone who loves Blue Balliett may not want to read the Sammy Keyes books.  Sci Fi books aren’t created equal either…neither are historical fiction…so it’s hard to narrow a person into a genre.

Who is this reader?  Certainly anyone can read anything. But what is the doorway in?

These questions plagued Barb. They kept her up at night and occupied her thoughts shower after shower. While Harry Potter may have a little something for everyone, not every book does.

Barb pulled on knowledge from her master’s in education and human resources development to attack the question.

She returned to established personality research.  She shared with me that over the course of 2000 years, over and over folks have identified four types of people. She re-examined the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, based on the psychological types described by Carl Jung who believed that our seemingly random behavior is actually consistent. It is based on differences relating to the way we make use of perception (sensation and intuition) and judgment (thinking and feeling).  Barb revisited the Keirsey Temperment Sorter, which is based on the theory that there are four basic temperament groups–artisans, guardians, rationals, and idealists–and that those groups might be further divided into more specific character types.

Barb now posits that the secret sauce might be in our ability to identify a child’s reader preference type, or their reading personality.  And that personality may be based on a variety of factors, including their interest in particular types of pacing, tone, subject matter, settings, emotional arcs.

Some people want a galloping pace with incredible intensity. Some people want an emotional arc.

Which Reading Superhero Are YOU? is a 10-question assessment that helps identify a child’s reading personality.  The current answer key on the website divides each type by gender, but Barb is currently working on creating new names and gender-free divisions for the four reading personalities.  She notes: The only reason I divided it back in 2009 was to reach and meet needs of people who were Googling books for boys.

Barbs model divides the readers into four types in two major categories:


1. Guardian/Belonger: This group is about rules and traditions. They like order and structure. Concrete thinkers, they are into detail. They enjoy being part of a system. Often, they become teachers.  They honor tradition. They guard the treasure.  Consider books like Little House on the Prairie.

2. Dionysian: This group is into experience. They want to do something.  The last thing they want to do is sit in a classroom. They are troubleshooters and analysts. They’re great in emergency situations. They don’t mind practicing if it’s fun.  They can do the 10,000 times thing that Malcolm Gladwell describes in Outliers. They prefer physical experience to an emotional arc.  Just do something and move it along. We don’t always cherish them. People think they have ADHD. They are very good at assessing people. They know just who you are in a short conversation. They are sensitively tuned into conversations.  They make up a lot of our reluctant readers and parents are generally tired of their rolling eyes.  Consider:  Dragon Breath, The Day My Butt Went Psycho, Horrid Henry, Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, any graphic novel


3.  Joan of Arc/Seeker.  These readers are interested in discovering who am I and what am I supposed to do?  The help others with that too.  They are big into causes and all about harmony.  They regularly take the emotional temperature of the group they belong to.  The strive to become a sage and they’ll rebel if you buck their values.  They are sensitive and they read for an emotional arc.  Consider: TA Barron’s Merlin Saga, Rosanne Parry’s Heart of a Shepherd, life quest, Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia and authors who write about deep emotion with hope, like Joan Bauer and Tamora Pierce.

4. Answerman/Investigator Analyst  These readers are centered on competence.  They are visionary, strategic thinkers who cannot get enough knowledge. They are their own authority.  They are flexibile, big picture thinkers who read for information and are not wedded to one practice. They know when it’s crap. Consider: biography and well-written narrative nonfiction.

For more detailed and many more suggested titles, check out the answer key (noting the labels are currently under construction).Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.14.23 PM

Barb recently tested the inventory in a professional development session at Shenandoah University. She shared:

Adults took the survey and I had them pick out what they were looking for on a whiteboard. People knew exactly what they were looking for when they saw it. It’s hard to define what it is, but you know when it clicks. Everyone is wired so differently.  It’s important to bring reading down to an individual level.

Barb’s library has an excellent partnership with its local schools, with each children’s specialist assigned as a liaison to his or her own school.  At parents night, I help out in the halls.  I ask parents–give me the symptoms of your reader and I will write the prescription.

The Which Reading Superhero are YOU? assessment can be one more tool in the our toolkit to help us better or more quickly get to that magic moment where we can say aha!  I understand you. I know the books that will work just for you.

As Barb says, It’s so powerful to be able to tell a child, “I understand you. I can shrink the ocean of possible books out there into a pond that’s just your size, a pond through which you can enter the world of reading.

If you’d like to learn more or contribute to tagging and sharing on the site, write to Barb at

Also check out this board of Reading Suggestion Engines.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Linda Mitchell says:

    I have recommended Barb’s website a few hundred times now. It NEVER fails to engage readers….and TEACHERS. Teachers LOVE taking the quiz and finding out what their reading personality is. One thing I did do was to adapt Barb’s quiz for ELA students with some simpler language to understand on a powerpoint I use in classrooms. Thank you for highlighting this great resource.

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