Understanding Students’ Perceptions of Their Motivation to Practice Recreational Reading
Davis, Jessica Lynn
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Background: Research has found regular reading, or the practice of habitually reading for pleasure, to support students’ learning in both literacy and other subject areas. Although reading serves as the foundation for students' success, many lose their desire to read as they progress through elementary school; this decline is more prominent amongst boys than girls at or around the fourth grade. Although educators can combat this problem by developing positive reading habits and reading proficiencies within students, they must first understand the root of the decline in students’ motivation to read and how students perceive themselves as readers. Purpose: This study will inform upper elementary educators of students’ perceptions of reading, helping educators better to understand how to motivate all students to practice recreational reading. This study was guided by the following research question: How do fourth-grade students describe their motivation to read, and what do their descriptions suggest about their reading habits and their perceptions of the materials made available to them? Methods: This study employed a qualitative multiple-case study research design. Gambrell’s Motivation to Read Profile (MRP) survey was administered as a screener to 38 fourth-grade students currently under the reading instruction of the researcher to identify their levels of reading motivation. Creswell’s stratified random sampling design was then employed to select six final research participants based upon gender and MRP scores. Through Zoom, the researcher conducted two individual interviews with each selected research subject (lasting approximately 15 to 20 minutes in length) and one focus group interview (lasting approximately 20 minutes in length), in which all research subjects participated. The first individual interview was conversational, as it followed the interview protocol from the MRP. The second interview was semi-structured and generally open-ended. Both interviews allowed for participants to provide detailed insight regarding what motivates and de-motivates them each to practice recreational reading. Their responses helped the researcher understand students’ motivation to read from their points of view and experiences. The focus group interview, which was semi-structured and generally open- ended, allowed participants to answer questions collaboratively. Their interactions yielded both clarification and validation of findings from the individual interviews, and it provided participants with a final opportunity to reflect in a natural, conversational setting. The researcher also collected observational data of participants' reading behaviors, mechanics, and choices during their daily Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) time (lasting approximately 15 minutes in length) in class to understand what motivated and de-motivated students to read. All collected data underwent concept-driven coding by the researcher to generalize findings and concepts that lead to the emergence of specific themes. An educational checker, who is both a graduate student in education and a fourth-grade teacher at the research site, reviewed and evaluated de-identified data and codings to adjust for possible biases in the research findings. Findings: The study added to the literature regarding how students perceive the activity of reading and what educators can do to support students' positive reading attitudes. From the data, six major themes emerged: 1. Read-alouds are effective in engaging students in reading; 2. Students enjoy reading captivating and exciting genres, such as mystery and adventure; 3. Students want book access, choice, and time; 4. Extrinsic motivators do not develop intrinsic motivation; 5. Parental involvement and support are influential; 6. Children understand the importance of reading. Each finding was corroborated with participants’ responses and observational data. Conclusion: The findings suggested that participants do not require external incentives if presented with time to read materials of their choosing and interest, as well as ongoing parental support and encouragement.