This study explored the relationships among high school students‘ general interests, reading interests, and personality dimensions. Two hundred and fifty one 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students in a rural school district in east central Texas completed three questionnaires. General interests were determined by the Strong Interest Explorer, personality dimensions were determined by the Big Five Inventory, and book reading interests were determined by the Reading Interest Rating Scale. The reading interest scores were adjusted for reading ability based on Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) English/Language Arts scale scores.
A factor analysis including six general interest variables, five personality variables, and four reading interest variables was conducted. The analysis yielded five factors. Factor 1 had the highest loadings from Holland’s general interest types. Factor 2 was dominated by the book categories (Contemporary Fiction, Fact-based Literature, Poetry, and Modern Fantasy). Factors 3, 4, and 5 had the highest loadings from the personality dimensions. Factor 3 included Openness, Factor 4 included Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism, and Factor 5 included Extraversion.
Factor 3, which accounted for 11.67% of the variance, was the only factor where a personality variable (Openness), a general interest variable (Artistic), and a reading interest variable (Modern Fantasy) loaded moderately to highly together. In this particular case alone, teachers may help students select materials that match their personal needs and personalities (Lau & Cheung, 1988) by recommending texts in the modern fantasy genre to those who exhibit openness and value artistic expression.
With the exception of Openness, none of the Big Five Personality Dimensions loaded with a book category. There was also only one strong book category and general interest loading. Reading interests appear to be exclusive of general life interests and personality dimensions. Based on the findings, it appears that text-based situational interest is evoked by topics or ideas that are universally appealing (Hidi & Anderson, 1992). Since text-based interest can be controlled by teachers to some degree (Krapp, Hidi, & Renninger, 1992; Schraw, Flowerday, & Lehman, 2001), promoting student independence and choice should broaden students’ interests and help increase intrinsic motivation to read (Deci, 1992).