Motivating Students to Read

Rachel Patty

What's the Skinny?

Reading motivation is lacking among students today and we need to figure out how to change that! As part of a research study I looked into matching students with books that pertained to their individual interests in order to increase reading motivation. To find out more about their interests I encouraged communication between the students, the students' families, the classroom teacher, and myself. Take a look at the research question:

In what ways does a teacher’s increased focus on a child’s interests outside of school, as communicated by both the child and the child’s family, increase third grade students’ motivation to read?

Here are the deets...

  • Participants: 6 third grade students from a traditional K-5 elementary school in Chapel Hill, NC
  • Single group pre-/post-test design
  • 6 week intervention period with additional days to gather pre- and post-test data

Data Sources:

  1. Researcher Journal
  2. Motivation to Read Profile Survey (Dever & Burts, 2002)
  3. Reading Interest Survey
  4. Home-School Communication Log
Motivation to Read Profile Survey

See what the MRP is all about!

What Happened?

Before beginning the six week intervention a pre- Motivation to Read Profile survey and reading interest survey were administered to the six third grade students. These were given to find out their interests as well as their perspectives on reading. The same reading interest survey was sent home for the students' parents to fill out about their child. A communication letter was also sent home asking the parents how they would prefer to communicate with myself about their child's interests. They were instructed to provide any relevant information about topics/activities/tv shows etc. that their child showed any interest in. The information received from the parents coupled with classroom observations and conversations with the students during their independent literacy time at school proved valuable. With that information I was able to make literacy suggestions to the classroom teacher about how to best support each child. In some cases the students needed book options that were on their level instead of being too hard. In another case the student needed a variety of books to take home because they did not have books available outside of school. With every student we offered book suggestions that lined up with the interests that were communicated by both them and their parents. At the end of the intervention period a post- Motivation to Read Profile survey and reading interest survey were administered to the students.

Take a glance at the full intervention timeline...

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Over the course of the six week intervention period qualitative and quantitative data were collected from the data sources listed above. Out of the six parents who were contacted only four returned the pre- reading interest survey and communication letter. Of the four parents who provided information about how to best communicate with them only one parent communicated consistently, two communicated minimally (one response back), and one did not communicate back at all. Three students made significant gains between their pre- and post- Motivation to Read Profile survey results, but based on the quantitative t-test results of these scores the gains cannot be attributed to the intervention. Qualitative findings showed there are barriers to reading and if they are removed the student is a more successful reader. These barriers include students reading a frustration level (the level is too high), distraction while reading, and lack of literacy resources availability.
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This shows the calculations for the MRP survey t-test results. Since the two-tailed p value is more than .05, the post-test gains cannot be attributed to the intervention.

Conclusions + Implications

Lack of parent communication and participation were huge limitations in this study. The purpose of this study was to find out in what ways a teacher's increased focus on a child's interests outside of school, as communicated by both the child and the child's family, increases a third grade student's motivation to read. However, that cannot be fully identified when there isn't interaction with the parent. Parental input is very important when provided, but when parents do not communicate there are other options that allow educators to get to know the student. One way to do so is by having another set of informed eyes in the classroom, observing and conversing with the students. The teacher has a classroom full of students and cannot possibly carefully observe every student's actions the entire time. Having another set of eyes in the classroom can help the teacher identify barriers to reading. When barriers are recognized through observation, literacy practices can be employed to help remove those barriers, ultimately aiming for reading success.

Why aren't parents involved?

Some barriers to creating a successful home-school partnership include:

  • Dual working parents who work late
  • Low levels of education or low English proficiency in the home
  • Over-reliance on the schools for their child's education

(Bokhorst-Heng, 2008)

What can teachers do to increase communication?

  • Make communication short, personal, direct, and outline exactly what you need
  • Specific emails
  • Parent conferences

(Advice offered from a parent who participated in the study)

For Your Reading Pleasure

These articles have tons of great information on motivating students to read plus engaging parents!


Bokhorst-Heng, W.D. (2008). School-home partnerships to nurture adolescent literacy. Middle School Journal, 39(5), 40-49.

Dever, M., & Burts, D. (2002). An evaluation of family literacy bags as a vehicle for parent involvement. Early Child Development and Care, 172(4), 359-370. DOI:10.1080/03004430212721