5,000 middle-schoolers surveyed about their attitudes toward reading

iStock_000021006935XSmallAttitude is everything when it comes to understanding why adolescents are not better readers, says a team of researchers who surveyed over 5,000 middle-schoolers about their attitudes toward both digital and print reading.

One reason researchers and policymakers so far have failed to account for the low reading achievement of many students is that they have focused too much on cognitive factors and not enough on emotional and attitudinal factors, says a new study in Reading Research Quarterly.

For this study, researchers developed a 21-item survey that measured middle school students’ attitudes toward 4 types of reading:

  • Recreational reading in print
  • Academic reading in print
  • Digital recreational reading
  • Digital academic reading

What stands out in the results is that students who like digital recreational reading don’t necessarily like the other forms of reading.

“The potential of digital environments for increasing engagement and fostering social interaction remains unrealized, and students’ attitudes toward reading are likely to be similar with respect to the two environments (print and digital),” they write.

One possible explanation is that teachers may be incorporating technologies in ways that are not so different from instruction based on print texts.

Boys in the study had more positive attitudes toward digital recreational reading than girls. Girls had more positive attitudes toward academic and recreational reading in print and toward digital academic reading. The study also found that interest in reading declined from 6th to 8th grade.

“Adolescents’ uses of technology are often hidden from their activities in the classroom, creating parallel worlds,” the researchers write.

“Learning about the literacy practices in those hidden worlds might yield useful lessons for designing more engaging classroom applications.”

“Reading Attitudes of Middle School Students: Results of a U.S. Survey,” by Michael McKenna et al., Reading Research Quarterly, Volume 47, Number 3, pps. 283-306. 

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