UKEdMag: Reading for Motivation by @JMcKay1972

Reading for Motivation, motivation for reading…..

Following many recent attainment projects in developing literacy skills in learners, my next obvious ‘hunch’ was to explore the many avenues in motivating learners to read. Historically good readers tend to possess strong phonological awareness and applying this skill confidently and fluently linking reading to their own experiences.

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 edition of UKEdMagazine

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Learning to read is stimulated from birth when pre-school children are exposed to stimulating literacy development patterns that recognise the alphabetic principles building on grammatical and syntactical skills. This leads to positive engagement in vocabulary knowledge and how a child understands why they read and the awareness of literacy concepts available to them.

Reading does not follow a natural route and as an effective practitioner, many learners require decoding skills, word recognition and comprehension to be taught through a systematic process. Akin to this many young learners relate to these skills through observation and listening techniques and benefit more importantly by being read to.

Implementing effective reading instruction is best executed when teachers possess adequate time to teach key reading concepts, have access well-stocked libraries, participate in meaningful personal and professional development opportunities and have that all important pupil voice that explicitly states what makes reading fun?

Recently my current class of 28 Primary 6’s clarified what would make reading more fun for them, their responses were: comics, interesting fact books, audio books, sharing our books in pairs, books that let us act out scenes and the continuation of that all-important ‘Book Nook’ (our quiet cushioned corner).

Self-selection of reading books is certainly a dominant factor in motivating learners to read. Engagement and literacy rich environments hold the key in nurturing this motivation.

Reading with Motivation

Motivation as Bandura (1986) suggests ‘is the result of an individual’s self-efficacy relating to a task’. He further defines this as ‘the beliefs we have about ourselves that cause us to make choices, put forth effort and persist in the face of difficulty’. One of the most powerful ways of demonstrating self-efficacy is mastery experience. This concept occurs when a learner evaluates their own competence and considers their efforts as successful. The use of ‘mastery’ increases confidence and the willingness to try more challenging tasks. This mirrors our relentless focus on growth mindset. Gambrell, Palmer, Codding and Mazzoni (1996), highlight the role that social experiences play in the evolution of self-efficacy and the positive beliefs and behaviours sustained by teachers are important in building and maintaining this within the classroom.

Promoting Independent Reading

Selecting texts that are not only relevant and understood by the learner increases knowledge bases and reading for enjoyment. But successful promotion of independent reading requires commitment and involvement of teaching staff. This resulting in the teacher discussing the reading context with the learner, instructing and providing effective differentiated as well as scaffolded tasks to establish the readers understanding of what they have read. Wordless picture books used initially for reluctant readers are a fantastic resource to build literacy skills and demonstrates an awareness of how stories are structured. Literacy-rich conversations can reinforce how the learners interpret a story and how pictures are linked with text. This again can be used as a prompt when the teacher provides a beginning, middle and end frame.

The key to any investment is time. Children learn at different paces and therefore time requires to be allocated explicitly dependant on proficiency. Reading is definitely not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ theorem and independent reading requires a broad range of texts.

Multimedia and Reading

Building knowledge and enriching reading experiences for me has had positive outcomes by encouraging learners to integrate images and prompts to demonstrate a deep understanding of location, culture and meaning to text. Key vocabulary was taken from selected reading books and learners used ‘Google’ to search for these. This led to discussions about their books and further led to some of the reluctant readers being captivated to read on.

The realisation of living in a ‘digital world’ has an important role in today’s teaching and can play an integral part in prompting key aspects of reading through the endless stream of media and technology.

Without a doubt the motivation to learn through technology is by far more highly regarded than conventional paper format. This is essential but traditional means in my opinion should still be at the fore-front of literacy development in class. Educational ‘Apps’ provide essential skills in recognising phonics, spelling, comprehension, writing and print awareness. ‘Apps’ also provide excellent opportunities for learners with Dyslexia using programmes such as, text-to-speech, audio books and organisational skills.

One particular ‘App’ that has been successful in reading development was ‘Story Maker’. This encapsulated all abilities and allowed learners to create their own book. This for some learners would have been a very daunting if not anxious task previously.

Nurturing the Motivation

Many researchers have confirmed that motivation is the ultimate influence in promoting successful reading. Many practical transformations can be adopted by teachers and parents to create a literacy-rich and very motivating environment. The most valuable in obtaining engaged readers of all abilities could be as simple as promoting self-selection, reading aloud, providing a well-balanced selection of texts, solicit learner voice and most importantly demonstrate the power and value of reading.

Reading for motivation or motivation for reading? Share the excitement and honour those books!


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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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