This article is a review of the literature related to the reading attitudes and the instructional methods of teaching reading. The article provides a synthesis of previous studies on the reading attitudes of elementary school students in the United States and also addresses a brief review of literature on historic and traditional methods of reading instruction.
For the first time in modern history, the percentage of adults that reads literature for pleasure is less than 50% of the adult population. This trend reflects a larger decline in other sorts of reading. Reading for pleasure is declining rapidly among all Americans, but the rate of decline has accelerated among the youngest Americans. Over the past twenty years, young adults have declined from being those most likely to read literature to those least likely to read literature. Americans in the South are 20% less likely to read literature than other regions of the United States (Gioia, 2004). As more Americans lose the capability to read, our nation becomes less informed, active, and independent minded. These are not qualities that a free, innovative, or productive society can afford to lose (Gioia, 2004).
Studies have consistently found that attitudes toward reading begin and continue to decline in the intermediate grades (McKenna & Kear, 1995; Sperling & Head, 2002). The teaching of reading has two main goals: instill in students the necessary skills to read effectively and to develop a sense of enjoyment toward reading (Sainsbury, 2004). As educators we must ask the question: Does our instructional method teach reading at the expense of enjoyment?
Historical Background of Reading Attitudes
Reading attitude is an integral part of the development and use of lifelong reading skills. The ultimate success of instruction is strongly affected by the reader's attitude (Richek, List, & Lerner, 1983). Researchers have theorized that attitudes affect one's motivation and subsequent achievement by increasing the amount of time learners engage in reading (McKenna, Kear, & Ellsworth, 1990; Richek, List, & Lerner, 1989). Evidence has linked reading attitude with ability and reported that poor readers generally have more negative attitudes than better readers (Parker & Paradis, 1986). Other studies have shown consistent attitudes toward reading regardless of ability (Lazarus & Callahan, 2000). A study by McKenna and Kear (1990) found that students' attitudes toward academic and recreational reading steadily declined across the elementary school years. This study showed a sharp decline in low-ability students' attitudes across grade levels.
Reading attitudes have been assessed to determine attitudinal differences between girls and boys. Throughout grades one through six, the attitude score for girls tended to be more positive than for boys (Parker & Paradis, 2001). Another study found that the responses of girls to reading attitude surveys were significantly more positive than boys. It was discovered that girls are significantly more likely to read stories, magazines and poems than boys, whereas boys are more likely to read comics, newspapers and information books (Sainsbury, 2004).
Reading attitudes have also been measured with students with disabilities and compared to their non-disabled peers. Lazarus and Callahan (2000) found that students with learning disabilities who received reading instruction in special education resource rooms express reading attitudes that equaled or exceeded those expressed by low and average non-disabled students.
Gifted students tend to have different perceptions and attitudes toward reading. A study by Martin (1984) explored the reading attitudes of gifted students. The results indicated that gifted students have negative attitudes toward reading. These students found most …