Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Factors That Influence the Decision to Read: An Investigation of Fifth Grade Students' Out-of-School Reading Habits

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Factors That Influence the Decision to Read: An Investigation of Fifth Grade Students' Out-of-School Reading Habits

Article excerpt

According to recent research, there is a strong relationship between the amount of out-of-school reading a student engages in and his or her success in school in reading (Anderson, Fielding, & Wilson, 1988; Stanovich, 1986; Taylor, Frye, & Maruyama, 1990; Walberg & Tsai, 1984). This relationship reveals the importance of investigating why so few children choose to read outside-of-school. The purpose of this study was to investigate why some children choose to read out-of-school and others do not, focusing not only on factors that contribute to intermediate grade students' decisions to read, but also on the students' perspectives about these factors.

The results of this study revealed several significant factors related to the decision to read. Using regression analysis, three of the variables studied proved to be statistically significant: self-concept as a reader, television viewing, and organized activities. The qualitative data helped to further explain factors related to voluntary reading. Children who came from homes where voluntary reading was promoted had parents who read aloud to them, modeled reading themselves for recreational purposes, recommended good books, and discussed books at home that they and their children were reading. It was also discovered through these same interviews that students who were in schools where they were given opportunities to read self-selected materials and were given access to materials that they were personally interested in reading were more likely to engage in voluntary reading than those in classrooms where these practices were not evident. This study also found that caution should be taken when relying on external rewards to motivate and promote voluntary reading.

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According to recent research, there is a strong relationship between the amount of out-of-school reading a student engages in and his or her success in school in reading (Anderson, Fielding, & Wilson, 1988; Stanovich, 1986; Taylor, Frye, & Maruyama, 1990; Walberg & Tsai, 1984). Anderson, Fielding, and Wilson (1988) found that time spent reading books out-of-school was the best predictor of a child's growth as a reader from the second through the fifth grade. Time spent reading out-of-school has also been tied to vocabulary development, fluency, comprehension, and general intellectual development (Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000; Anderson, Fielding, & Wilson, 1988; Stanovich, 1986; Taylor, Frye, & Maruyama, 1990).

However, researchers (Anderson, Fielding, & Wilson, 1988) who have investigated time spent reading out-of-school and reading achievement have found that most children do very little reading out-of-school and only a small number read for extended periods of time. Researchers have documented that while most children begin their school careers with positive attitudes toward reading, many show a steady decline in reading attitudes as they progress through school (Anderson, Tollefson, & Gilbert, 1985; McKenna, Ellsworth, & Kear, 1995), and these negative attitudes are reflected in a steady decrease in the amount of leisure time children spend reading (Greaney, 1980). By the middle and high school years, the majority of children rarely read for pleasure (Cline & Kretke, 1985; McKenna, Ellsworth & Kear, 1995). Even if these students are not initially struggling readers, reluctant readers tend to gradually lose academic ground, since time spent reading is tied to academic success (Anderson, Fielding, & Wilson, 1988; Stanovich, 1986; Taylor, Frye, & Maruyama, 1990).

Hansen (1969) reported that the out-of-school reading habits that students establish by the fifth and sixth grades are the independent reading habits that remain with them throughout their lifetimes. This helps to explain the fact that half of all American adults admit to never having read a single book since graduation from high school and most of the rest admit to reading only one book a year (Woiwode, 1992; Morrow, 1991). …

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