Sustained Silent Reading: Motivation through Technology
Deci et al (2001) state that autonomy can play a significant role in motivation, and a distinguishing feature of SSR is that, rather than have a book dictated to them by a teacher or curriculum, learners read “a book of their own choice” (Stahl, 2004). Ivey & Broaddus (2001) found that one of the biggest motivators in reading for middle school learners is choice through SSR or free reading time, as shown in Figure 2, and providing the opportunity for autonomous reading means teachers empower learners, developing motivation through independence of choice. Technology can go some way in offering this autonomy and motivation for many middle-school readers, and can be deployed by teachers in the “quest to create young readers who possess the higher levels of literacy skills and background knowledge demanded by today’s information-based society” Biancarosa & Griffiths (2012).
As humans, we have always shaped our texts and organized our thinking according to the technologies that are available to us (Snyder, 1996). As Goodwyn (2014) points out, books are products of technology and have been in constant evolution since the inception of inscriptions made on stone, which, incidentally, also required the latest technology to be created. As teachers, we need to move our thinking in line with as the shifting concept of books and change how we perceive writing, literacy and text beyond the traditions of the printed page to engage and motivate learners to read in a way that looks recognizable to them. We must foster an appropriate culture of reading for these middle school “digital natives” (Prensky, 2006) by understanding that “the nature of text includes more than just words on a page” (Patterson & Pipkin, 2000) and that e-reading technology tools can help to improve literacy outcomes for all children (Biancarosa & Griffiths, 2012).
McCombs (2002), suggests that middle-school learners can be inherently motivated by feeling in control of their environment (Daniels & Steres, 2011), which is a real problem if one of the biggest issues facing them is access to material they want to read (Ivey and Broaddus, 2001). To combat this, Patterson & Pipkin (2000) state that teachers must meet learners were they are “with the textual experiences they bring to the classroom”, which includes “electronic texts such as games and Internet reading”. Access to a variety and quantity of high-quality relevant reading materials is an issue for middle school readers (Kim & Guryan, 2001, Neuman & Celano, 2001 cited in Little, McCoach, & Reis, 2014), but it need not be so. Since 2007, the “number of devices available for displaying digital text has increased exponentially” (Tablet Adoption Drives Ereader Sales by 400% , 2011 cited in Biancarosa & Griffiths, 2012) and e-reading devices such as iPads and Kindles offer both control and choice. They provide “easy access to books and newspapers” (Sullivan in Battye & Rainsberry, 2013), as well as have the capacity to house thousands of books and the capability to download new ones in seconds. They also offer support for all readers’ needs as the font size can be manipulated, they have text-to-speech features, built-in dictionaries, can create vocabulary lists, and connect to the Internet, features which may “substantially improve the learning of many students” (Anderson & Horney, 2007).
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