55 Reading journal prompts that work for ANY book (+free printable)

Written by Michelle Watson

February 20, 2022

If you’re here for reading journal prompts, then you’re likely:

  • a parent searching for your kid
  • an avid reader (like me!) who keeps a book journal

Either way, you’re in the right place, and you’ll find loads of thought-provoking prompts here in this blog post.

Keeping a reading journal is a great way to remember what you’ve read, but it’s also one way to dialogue with your book and the author, like having a conversation. 

And it doesn’t have to be hard work—on the contrary, it should be easy and fun!

Scroll down and you’ll find reading journal prompts for:

  • Students 
  • Adult fiction
  • Adult nonfiction
  • Book clubs

Before we dive in, you need to know that you can grab a free printable with all of these prompts ready to go!

What is a reading journal, anyway?

It’s a notebook, bullet journal, or three-ring binder where you write things about the book you’re reading. That’s it!

If you’re an adult reader who simply wants to journal, then you do this for the sheer delight of it. A reading journal is a private, safe space (offline) where you can jot down your true feelings about a book, as they pop into your mind, without the pressure of anyone else reacting to you. 

For kids and students, it’s usually an assignment for language arts class. Why, oh heavens, WHY? To help students get into the habit of not just passively reading but responding to what they’ve read. That’s why it’s often called a “reading response journal.” And it’s the best way for busy English teachers with big classes to facilitate this learning activity (and grade it). 

But what to actually write in a reading journal? The possibilities are endless and therefore immobilizing. That’s why it’s super helpful to have prompt ideas at the ready.

Now for the good stuff!

Reading journal prompts for students

Here are my favorite prompts for your student’s reading response journal (or narrative journal, dialectical journal, independent reading enrichment, etc.) Use these to support your homeschool reading curriculum OR (my favorite) foster a book club atmosphere in your home.

11 Easy, imaginative reading journal prompts for kids

This is a non-traditional list of prompts with more of a book club vibe to them. The goal is for kids to respond with their own thoughts (instead of trying to get the “right” answer). 

  1. What’s something from this book that you never want to forget?
  2. Would you call this an “easy” book or a “hard” book? Why?
  3. What character in this book is most like (or unlike) you?
  4. Without thinking too much, write a list of words that describe how this book (or this chapter) made you feel.
  5. Does something in this book (a character, place, or object) remind you of something else from another book (or from your life)?
  6. What would’ve happened if a character had done X instead of Y?
    1. Example: What would’ve happened if Marilla hadn’t kept Anne Shirley?
  7. Would you like to live in this story world? Why or why not?
  8. Did this book teach you something new?
  9. Was this book what you expected it was going to be? Did it surprise you at all?
  10. If you could ask the author a question, what would it be?
  11. Would this book be more interesting if the events were NOT presented in chronological order?

If you’re a homeschool parent or if you simply want to connect with your kids through books, then you MUST check out Sarah MacKenzie at Read-Aloud Revival

10 Academic reading journal prompts for kids

This is a more traditional list of schoolish prompts that should satisfy your child’s reading teacher (but that won’t torture your student). To add more academic rigor to the mix, ask the student to provide textual evidence (quotes, page numbers) to support their answers. 

  1. At the beginning of the book, what does the main character want most? Does this change by the end of the book and how?
  2. Who (or what) is the antagonist (or antagonistic force)? What is it trying to stop the main character from doing? 
  3. Why do you think the author chose this title for the book?
  4. Was this book believable? Could it have happened in real life? Did the characters act like real humans act?
  5. Does a character’s name have special significance?
  6. Which fairy tale, fable, myth, or scripture story does this book remind you of?
    1. For example, are there any Cinderellas in this book? Is there a Christ figure who sacrifices for others? 
  7. Read the book’s back cover or inside flap. Does it accurately reflect the book or not?
  8. Which character had the biggest impact on the story and why?
  9. How would the story feel different if it was written from a different point of view?
  10. Would this book make a good TV show or movie? Why or why not?

BONUS! Reading-writing activities for homeschooling and distance learning

Take journaling to the next level with these creative writing prompts for kids. Use these in place of a tired, ol’ book report.

  1. Go to the library and check out a stack of wordless books. Invite your students to add words to the book based on the illustrations. Challenge them to write the book in a creative narrative format (for example, as a stage play, in epistolary form, or from the perspective of the bad guy). 
  2. Go to the library and check out a stack of books that are a few reading levels below where your child is at. Have your student rewrite the story for an older audience. Wouldn’t it be fun to read the 6th grade version of a super-simple Frog and Toad story? Or the 10th grade version of Strega Nona?
  3. Buy an inexpensive used copy of a book and have your student write their reading responses directly in the margins. You can even supply your student with emoji stickers that they can use to describe how they feel while reading certain passages.
  4. Try an interactive reading journal. This is where more than one student shares a reading journal, responding to the text but also responding to each other’s responses.

17 Reading journal prompts for adults (fiction)

You love to read books AND discuss what you’ve read. But you don’t always have another human being who is ready and willing to dive deep into your latest novel with you. The solution? A reading journal! Think of it as your own little Booklandia. 

Here are some of my favorite writing prompts for when I’m reading a novel.

  1. Why did you pick THIS book to read right NOW?
  2. Why is the title of this book the title? Is it straightforward or does it have shades of meaning?
  3. Do any of the characters’ names carry any special significance?
  4. Do any of the characters strongly remind you of people in your life? 
  5. Did this book hit on any of your “soft spots” or “sweet spots” as a reader? These are things that you just love and can’t resist. 
  6. Did this book hit on any of your pet peeves as a reader? 
  7. How would you describe the writing? Flowery, plain, poetic, emotional?
  8. Did you speed through this book or was it a slog?
  9. What morals underpin the story? Are they similar to or different from your own values?
  10. What does this book praise? Do you agree?
  11. What does this book put down? Do you agree?
  12. In what ways does the book nail its genre? In what ways does it depart from the typical genre conventions?
  13. Was this book what you expected it was going to be? Did it surprise you at all?
  14. If you could ask the author a question, what would it be?
  15. Would you consider this a favorite book? If not, what would it need to have (or what would need to improve) for it to make your list of favorites?
  16. What personality traits make the protagonist likeable? Unlikeable?
  17. What personality traits make the book’s villain likeable? Unlikeable? 

Starting a reading journal is a great way to get back into reading books if you’re rebounding from a slump. Also, many readers enjoy journaling at the end of the day. Responding to a couple of bedtime journal prompts is a great (screen-free) way to wind down, declutter your brain, and prepare for slumber.

11 Reading journal prompts for nonfiction books

It’s easy to inhale nonfiction—I’m talking business books, self-help books, and hobby books—and then completely forget what you learned or what you wanted to implement. Journaling as you go is one way to make meaningful connections to your life and get your creative juices flowing.

  1. Why did you pick THIS book to read right NOW?
  2. Without thinking too much, quickly write a list of Ah-ha moments you had when reading this book. Do it from memory first, and then flip through the book to remember any that you forgot. 
  3. Did this book teach you a lot of new concepts, or did it reinforce things you already knew?
  4. In what ways did this book inspire you (emotionally or spiritually)?
  5. Are you going to think differently or make any changes based on this book?
  6. Was this book what you expected it was going to be? Did it surprise you at all?
  7. If you could ask the author a question, what would it be?
  8. What does this book praise? Do you agree?
  9. What does this book put down? Do you agree?
  10. What important information from this book do you NOT want to forget?
  11. Did this book turn you on to other books or resources that you want to explore or check out?

6 Reading journal prompts to spice up your book club (FUN!)

Giving your book club members a few reading journal prompts upfront is an easy way to spark discussion when it comes time to meet up and actually discuss the book. First off, it gives you a place to start. And second, people arrive preloaded with a LOT to say because they’ve already been thinking about the questions.

The LAST thing you want is for your book club discussion questions to feel like a school assignment. Oh, no no no no. That’s why I’m giving you juicy questions that still manage to feel lighthearted and fun. 

You can print these prompts onto a journal page and give each member a copy to reference as they read. Or, if you’ve got a tech-savvy group, you can send out a Google form that contains all of the prompts, and everyone can respond electronically. Wouldn’t it be fun to read the responses aloud at your meeting but make everyone guess which response is whose?

  1. Do any of the characters in this book remind you of someone in our book club? BE NICE!
  2. If our book club could take the main character out for a night on the town, where would we go and what would we do?
  3. Pretend this book is being made into a movie or TV show, and you’re the casting director. Which actors would you pick to portray each character?
  4. Which type of social media account would each character in this book use the most?
  5. Which emoji (or gif or meme) best describes how you feel about this book?
  6. Choose one of the following to describe how you felt about this book:
    1. This was a good book, and I liked it.
    2. This was a bad book, but I liked it anyway.
    3. This was a good book, but I didn’t like it.
    4. This was a bad book, and I didn’t like it.

I hope that these reading journal prompts have you itching to grab your favorite pen and start scribbling!
If you want to save these prompts for later, then by all means grab the free printable version!

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