The Motivation to Read

Good morning world! It’s a new bright and beautiful day (if it’s not where you are, no need to be jealous – just use your imagination), and I’m overjoyed to experience it (let’s pretend that there’s no wrong side of the bed today). And you know what excites me the most about this day? The fact that I’m already reading. Honest!

As adults who have been reading for a long time, sometimes I think we take it for granted how much reading is integrated into our day. It’s a complex, but equally quick and automatic function of how we interact with our environment. It’s how I know which flavor protein bar I want for breakfast, how to get out of my dorm (those lovely exit signs), and how I keep up with my friends through text messages and Facebook. Even when I sit down to the anime that I’m currently binge watching, or decide to watch a French film when I’m in the mood, I have to read the subtitles. Reading is always there in some form or another.

Our perceptions towards reading are influenced by our environment: in some circles this is referred to as an ‘Ideological Approach’ to reading.

(The alternative is the Autonomous Approach pays less attention to the social nature and looks at reading objectively in all of its parts: phonemes, decoding, that sort of thing. But I’m only interested in talking about the Ideological Approach today)

Ideological approaches are more likely to make reading relevant to whoever is learning the process by relating the utility to the social and environmental contexts from which the learner is a member. Additionally, texts are selected that are meaningful to the student. Here are two examples to make what you just read meaningful. Try to guess if it’s an ideological or not (not = autonomous approach).

  • A teacher wants a group of first grade boys to read a simple text, so the teacher selects a short text on Spiderman. The boys play “superhero” all the time during recess (and sometimes during instructional time), so they find reading a book about a superhero just as fun. The teacher is there to call attention to particular action words that are unfamiliar to the children.
  • A teacher wants students to be able to read new action words, so they first practice sounding various words out, then they learn to sound out the action words, and maybe say a sentence to demonstrate how they’re used. The end.

Well, if the level of fun I had with those examples isn’t obvious, I failed in making transparent examples. The first is ideological and the second is autonomous. The first relates the process of reading to the students, while the second focuses more on the mechanics behind learning to read the words. But wait? Aren’t both important?

YES! Of course! The trick is finding a balance and making sure that students are able to flex their mental muscles and assimilate the new words, texts, and materials into preexisting knowledge stores (or schemes if you want a fun new word!).

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