As an avid reader it's hard to hear my students say that they don't like to read, and it breaks my heart when they're proud of that. As the child of to very active readers I grew up reading. I remember participating in the library's summer reading program every year. There were times in high school I can remember not having gotten my homework completed because I'd spent the time reading something else instead. Given this sort of background, I can't empathize with people who don't like to read. As an educator though, I am aware of all the myriad reasons that students struggle with reading. I've wrestled with this disconnect for a while. Finally I realized that I could use every bit of information that I knew about teaching students how to read, but that if they didn't want to read, nothing I did was going to matter. So I knew I had to focus on the want, on student motivation.
Student success in all subject areas is predicated on a base of strong literacy skills. One of the major areas of the new Common Core Standards is a focus on reading across the curriculum. Thus, students who are stronger readers are set up to be the better achieving across all subject areas. A current major issue for teachers is that too many students are reading below grade level. It can be assumed that students who have a higher level of reading engagement are more likely to read, and thus more likely to get more practice reading, and ultimately be stronger readers. My study focuses on student readers and explores how to help them to become engaged/happy/successful readers.
According to NAEP data, 36 percent of fourth grade students are reading at grade level, and that number drops to 34 percent once students are measured again in the eighth grade. It is clear that too many students are reading below grade level on a national scale. Students who are English Language learners (ELL) are even more likely to score lower than their native speaking classmates. Fourth grade ELL reading scores are nearly 40 points below the average scores of native speakers.
Troy Jones and Carol Brown’s research (listed on the References page) showed that the format of the reading has no actual effect on students’ reading comprehension, although they did find that students tend to report a preference for digital reading. My study seeks to go further in that direction and find out if having students report on their own personal reading engagement can help educators to better target their supports to help students with the hope of having an effect on their engagement.