Reading Motivation for Adolescents

What is Reading Motivation and Why is it Important?

Motivation can be defined as "being eager to work" and "an influence that causes someone to do something". What motivates kids to read? Why is it important for kids to be motivated to read?

Reading motivation is a complex construct, which is described as the goals and feelings someone has towards reading. Having the motivation to read is extremely important in adolescents because it sets the platform for a lifetime of reading.
Adolescent Literacy Motivation

How Can We Motivate Students to Read?

Students enjoy reading what interests them! As a student in a teaching program, we are taught about a term known as "differentiation". It can be applied to all aspects of teaching, as it is the way to change the way you teach in order to meet the needs of different types of learners in your classroom. For example, I may be teaching about a concept in science. One of my students may hold a pencil very well and the other may not. I need to differentiate my assessments by having one student tell me what he learned by writing it down and the other student who doesn't do well holding writing utensils in his hand can voice his response to me with a descriptive answer. Students "pass" the test of making me aware they are learning but in different ways - ways that work for them.

This is what I plan to do as a teacher; Differentiate literacy according to students' interests. As you may have seen in the video above, students might think they're poor readers yet they'll go home and read statuses on Facebook, respond to emails, text their friends, and read blogs. Reading these different pieces is still reading! It's up to us as their teachers to find what motivates them to read, whether it be comic books, newspaper articles, novels, status updates, etc., and us it to our advantage to develop a foundation for them in literacy.

Case Study - Finding What Motivates Students

In 2006 a study was done at a large and diverse high school in the southeastern United States by Julie McGaha. Julie wanted to determine what motivated students to read and how to create a summer program that would keep students motivated to read when they're out of school.

Initially, Julie, the high school's assistant principal, was given the task of coming up with a summer reading program. She had looked at a few programs that surrounding high schools were using, but found that none had that spark which she believed would motivate her students to read.

After researching other reading programs, Julie identified five important components of reading motivation:
  1. Interest
  2. Perceived Control (belief that one has the ability to determine their own behavior and bring about desired outcomes)
  3. Self-Efficacy (the belief in one's ability to complete assignments/tasks and goals)
  4. Involvement
  5. Social Collaboration (working together with others)

So, in efforts to get students to read by using a program that would last and would be effective, Julie came up with her own summer reading program. She decided to not only use books that were of interest to students, but to offer a selection of books for students to choose from. It gave students choice where in other programs, students were assigned a book to read, which was not free for them to keep or highlight parts they wanted to talk about or remember.

Students were offered extra credit for participating and completing all parts of the summer reading program. Using extra credit made the program voluntary and not a requirement. Three parts had to be completed; 1. students read their chosen book (which was free to keep), 2. students participated in a book discussion, and 3. students completed a project based on their book. Completing these three parts earned the students who participated four extra credit points which they could apply to their final average in any class of their choice.

At the end of the program, a "Literacy Day" was had which contained the book discussions with all the participating students. At the end of Literacy Day, administrators gave students a survey which contained one question and one prompt. The question: "What was the best thing about summer reading?" and the prompt: "Suggestions for next year." 1,133 students gave responses to the surveys. Not including comments that were specific to books read or comments like "I liked getting out of class", the results were as follows as the top five answers for "What was the best thing about summer reading?":

  • 226 responses - interest
  • 184 responses - character identification (students can relate to characters)
  • 183 responses - connection through sharing/group discussion
  • 125 responses - not normally reading over the summer
  • 63 responses - learning

Throughout the next two years, interest still remained the highest chosen answer as a response to what their favorite part about the reading program was.

"The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." -Dr. Seuss

Mrs. Cortney Hall

I'm a senior at East Carolina University pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. The focus of my degree is reading. I have always had a love for reading as it is a free resource that can take you to places you've never imagined while teaching you at the same time.
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