In my 15 years of classroom involvement, I’ve noticed that one of the biggest issues with classroom engagement is simple participation. Whether it be problems with reading, homework completion, speaking up during discussion, or anything else. Even now in college I have noticed that only a select few of my classmates participate fully, mostly those who speak up in class are the ones to lead discussions, and do their assignments well before they are due.
What causes lack of motivation for participation? Some studies suggest that young adults from lower socioeconomic households are less likely to participate, due to having to work to support their family or deal with external factors not related to schooling. Individuals from more privileged households do not have to deal with as many external factors, but yet many of those individuals still do not participate, just as many low SES students do participate.
I feel that the simple answer to this predicament is achievement motivation. Achievement motivation is someone’s intrinsic desire to achieve. The motivation is often that of an internal and personal goal, rather than extrinsic goal like good grades or parental expectations. How does this relate to reading though you may ask?
In our Politics of Reading class the other day, we discussed how students growing up with Accelerated Reader were extrinsically motivated to read books and do well on comprehension tasks, for a reward of a party at the end of the year or a fake vacation in the classroom, something fun for students to enjoy at the end of the year. An important point that was brought up however is that Accelerated Reader mostly benefits the student who is already willing to read. The question that arises out of this then, is how do we motivate those who aren’t as willing to read, to read?
One phenomenal option that was discussed and that has been recommended by quite a few educators now, is having an open classroom library and free reading periods. When there is a specific time dedicated for a student to read in school, they are more likely to pick up a book and enjoy it than they are if they are not given the time set aside to read. Students really engage with books and reading when they can make choices about what they want to read, based off of their own interests. Why not have free reading periods in all schools? Money is not necessarily the problem this time. One teacher found a way around the problem of a budget though book donations. Another solved this problem through book donations from publishing companies, or through grants after this type of classroom was noted to be immensely effective.
Access to books is the easiest way to encourage reading, however many people still lack the desire to read because of insecurity with their ability, or general disinterest. Making reading fun through programs like Accelerated Reader seem beneficial on the outside, but does not truly help those who still really don’t want to read. Forcing people to read is impossible and also ineffective. An alternate strategy is making books more appealing by relating them to TV shows, or encouraging reading through comics or apps such as Flipboard with news stories. The most important part of reading is reading anything and everything. Although many texts are more difficult than others, I feel that as long as a student reads something, anything at all, they are enhancing their ability in a way that someone who does not read is not.
To investigate further strategies of reading motivation, I explored the internet and found a few suggestions from Reading Rockets:
- “Honoring” books- set a book upright among a pile of books lying flat, or provide a short paragraph of information saying why that book is so interesting to read
- Read aloud- having a teacher read aloud seems quite elementary, but with the right narrator this makes the book more interesting and alive. When the teacher stops reading, the student may be curious enough to pick up the book on their own
- Self-selection- provide both informational and historical texts among “more interesting” novels of varying genres
Although these suggestions sound promising, nothing can be truly known until methods are implemented fully in a classroom or other educational setting. I hope that in the future free reading will be implemented more broadly, and I also hope that other solutions can be discovered to encourage people of all ages to read and enjoy reading.