Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

Motivating and Engaging Students in Reading

Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

Motivating and Engaging Students in Reading

Article excerpt

You can certainly ignore motivation if you choose. But if you do, you may be neglecting the most important part of reading. There are two sides to reading. On one side are the skills which include phonemic awareness, phonics, word recognition, vocabulary, and simple comprehension. On the other side is the will to read. A good reader has both skill and will. In the "will" part, we are talking about motivation to read. This describes children's enjoyments, their wants, and their behaviors surrounding reading. A student with skill may be capable, but without will, she cannot become a reader. It is her will power that determines whether she reads widely and frequently and grows into a student who enjoys and benefits from literacy. So we think you should care about motivation because it is the other half of reading. Sadly, it is the neglected half.

What is motivation?

Many teachers think of a motivated reader as a student who is having fun while reading. This may be true, but there are many forms of motivation that might not be related to fun and excitement. What we mean by motivation are the values, beliefs, and behaviors surrounding reading for an individual. Some productive values and beliefs may lead to excitement, yet other values may lead to determined hard work.

We talk about three powerful motivations that drive students' reading. They operate in school and out of school, and they touch nearly every child. Some students may have all of these motivations and some may have only one. For some students, these motivations appear in the positive form driving students toward reading. For other students, the motivations are negative and push students away from books. When we talk about reading motivations we refer to (1) interest, (2) dedication, and (3) confidence. An interested student reads because he enjoys it; a dedicated student reads because he believes it is important, and a confident student reads because he can do it. We discuss each of these in this essay with an emphasis on dedication.

Research says that skill and will (motivation) go together. Usually, students who are gaining in skill are gaining in motivation as well; a student whose motivation increases because she is inspired by a terrific teacher will grow in reading skills. Research also says that these three motivations are independent. A student may be interested and read for enjoyment, but not dedicated and not seeing the importance of hard work in reading. A student may also be interested and want to read but not be confident in her ability. So confidence can be a problem when other motivations are not a problem for a student. Research also says that motivation comes from the teacher in the classroom. Of course, motivation may be stimulated by home and may be influenced by peers, but the teacher is the main actor influencing a student's development of reading motivation.

What can a teacher do?

We offer six motivation practices that teachers can implement daily in the classroom. These practices can be brought into every lesson and directed to every student. Teachers do not have to wait for motivation to come from the outside. They can make it happen any time they want to implement one of these six practices. Research undergirds the impact of these practices on students becoming avid readers and on students becoming achieving readers. We provide examples of these practices from the literature and from our own experiences in our research and teaching.

Motivations to read- interest, confidence, dedication


When we think of motivation our mind first turns to interest. Motivation is enjoying a book, being excited about an author, or being delighted by new information. Researchers refer to interest as intrinsic motivation, meaning something we do for its own sake. On a rainy day, we might rather read our favorite mystery than do anything else. We are not trying to get a reward when falling into a novel. …

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