Academic journal article Reading Improvement

The Effects of Book Clubs on the Reading Attitudes of Middle School Students

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

The Effects of Book Clubs on the Reading Attitudes of Middle School Students

Article excerpt

Background of the Study

The moniker "book club" conjures up visions of middle-aged adults gathering to discuss a literary classic, or the latest Oprah recommendation over wine and cheese. However, non-classroom or independent book clubs of all sorts have recently been developing in schools across the country. These clubs have varied goals. Some clubs attempt to involve parents or serve as a venue for teacher professional development, while still others were used to motivate reluctant readers (Beers 1996, Mitchel & Harris, 2001, Zaleski & Weil, 1999). The primary focus of these initiatives is the advancement of adolescent literacy. The purpose of this article is to describe one such initative.

Need for the Study

Interest, competence, and motivation in reading and language arts decline as adolescents enter middle school (Guthrie, 2001 ; Wigfiled, Eccles, MacIver, Reuman, & Midgley, 1991). Sadly the situation does not improve. By the time students enter high school many do not see themselves as readers and view reading as a chore after being forced to read in middle school (Early, Fryer, Leckee, & Walton, 2004). Introducing a book club to middle school students may be a way to combat this trend and address issues of motivation and adolescent development.

Purpose for the Study

George (2004) posits that implementation of a book club is one way of meeting the goal to address young adolescents' intellectual, social, emotional, and moral development set forth by the National Middle School Association. This is a worthy goal and one that should be explored. It is evident that methods are needed which promote venues for students to read and discuss text (Harmon & Wood, 2001).

Much has been written that promotes the use of book clubs in reading and language arts classrooms (Daniels, 1994, 2001; McMahon, Raphael, Gaoately, & Pardo, 1997). Independent book clubs, held outside of the classroom, should also be promoted. Harmon and Wood (2001) explain that book clubs in the classroom provide for lively conversations among groups of students and their peers. Additionally book clubs help to expand students' understanding and appreciation of the books read. Book clubs that emphasize reading as an experience rather than an academic task can attract students, even reluctant ones, to participate because they view the club as a social event rather than the typical demands of daily classroom assignments (Mitchel & Harris, 2001). Roller and Beed (1994) agree, adding that "Good exchanges and discussions help build feelings of competency, acceptance, and motivation that provide an entry point for less able readers to the literate world." P.510. The significance of being a member of the club was documented years ago by Hinchman (1917) when he proposed that students given the choice of participating in a reading club, rather than a traditional literature class, chose the club which resulted in greater levels of independent reading.

Although the choice to participate in a book club is important, the freedom to select books read by book club members is central to success. It is important that students at all ranges of reading ability be given the opportunity to select books that stimulate their interest based on their own personal criteria. Choice in text selection empowers readers and thereby promotes literacy development. Readers are, by nature, prone to discuss books that appeal to them which leads to deeper discussion and an expansion of their perspective and opinions (Johnson, Giorgis, and Brown, 2003). Roller & Beed (1994) concur by adding that enthusiastic involvement with books is important as it may provide a venue for students to enter the world of well-read discussion and literary engagement.

Engagement is critical because it contributes to motivation. Guthrie, McGough, Bennett, and Rice (1996) found engaged readers to be motivated, strategic, knowledgeable, and socially interactive. …

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