Academic journal article Journal of College Reading and Learning

Cyber "Pokes": Motivational Antidote for Developmental College Readers

Academic journal article Journal of College Reading and Learning

Cyber "Pokes": Motivational Antidote for Developmental College Readers

Article excerpt

More than three decades ago, elementary teacher and educational researcher Kay Haugaad (1973) wondered about the power of comics as a motivational panacea that could be bottled and sprinkled around the classroom as needed (cited in Norton, 2003, p. 140). Haugaad is not alone; many educators share her attraction to the potential pull of students' clandestine literacies (Finders, 1997; Guzzetti & Gamboa, 2004). For secondary educators, recent research examines new literacies such as blogging, IMing (Reed Schallert, Beth, & Woodruff, 2004), and zining (Guzzetti & Gamboa, 2004) that may hold untapped potential for enticing reluctant or struggling adolescent readers. Reed et al. (2004) explained the importance of validating students' out-of-school literacy: "We believe that looking at what adolescents are doing can inform what we want them to do" (p. 252).

Although the motivational literature unequivocally demonstrates the decline in reading engagement from elementary school through middle school until reaching its nadir in high school (Zuscho & Pintrich, 2001), most government-backed research and resources have been earmarked for investigating elementary reading practices with little attention on adolescents' unique habits. Additionally, while educators have studied factors that help students learn to read, they know less about the factors that keep them reading. Yet as the Alliance for Excellent Education (2006) argued, America's adolescent literacy struggles are equally alarming. The Alliance urged policymakers to invest greater resources into studying and supporting the reading practices of middle and high school students whose reading achievement has stagnated in the last decade. The invisibility of the struggling adolescent reader has produced an increase in the number of high school graduates who are unable to read beyond basic proficiency. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education's (2007) National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly known as the "nation's report card," described several troubling trends among the nation's 12th-grade reading achievement levels. According to NAEP data, the percentages of students performing at or above basic reading proficiency and proficient reading levels have both decreased over the last 13 years. Additionally, only 35% of America's high school seniors performed above basic reading proficiency levels in 2005. The decline in reading scores was evident across all reading contexts, that is, reading for information, reading to perform a task, and reading for literary experience. The study publicized what many teachers in middle schools and high schools already suspected: although secondary students can read and extract basic facts, most are unable to grapple with complex materials.

Ironically, at a time when policymakers and advocacy groups are documenting underprepared adolescent readers, the numbers of college-bound adolescents are growing rapidly. The National Center for Education Statistics (2007) reported a college enrollment record of 17.5 million students for fall 2005 with an expected 13% increase between 2006 and 2015. In response to teaching increasing numbers of underprepared students, most American colleges and universities offer remedial or "developmental" courses aimed at preparing students for the rigors of college work. Attewell, Lavin, Domina, and Levey (2006) estimated that nearly 40% of traditional college students would need to enroll in at least one developmental course in their college careers. When Adelman (1998) studied the graduation rate of those students who needed developmental education in college, he found that the academic success rate for the developmental population was only 39% compared with a 69% success rate for non-developmental students. Attewell et al. (2006) interpreted this discrepancy not as a side effect of enrolling in developmental college coursework, but as an indicator of poor secondary school academic performance and preparation. …

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