Indiana Reading Journal Volume 44 Issue 1 - Page 30

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In the case of this study, the boys were particularly interested in the current Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series. They expressed a desire to own all of the books, even if they had already read one or more of the titles. Instead of sharing their favorite parts of the text, they instead stated how many of the books they owned. Similar to a collection of trading cards, the boys often shared discussions about sets of books that they owned. Farris et al. (2009) conducted a qualitative study of fifth grade boys at an urban school, using electronic communication between teacher education candidates and students to explore reading motivation. Based on the electronic discussion, six reading preferences were identified; one preference claimed a gender-specific interest for sequels and books in a series (Farris et al., 2009). If boys prefer books in series and sequels, there may be a relationship between reading a series of books and collecting the entire set.

Reading is making real connections.

The second major finding was the need for real connections when reading. Familiar reading materials, familiar language, and familiar topics of interest all influence a reader’s motivation. The boys appeared motivated to read when the materials pertained to their personal lives. Several texts such as local newspapers and topic-specific magazines appealed to the boys. The participants expressed interest in reading several sections of the local newspaper. The police blotter was of particular interest, especially when the arrests involved geographic locations familiar to the boys. Other sections of the paper especially interesting to the boys were the comics, church news, sports sections, and the front page headlines. As one participant stated, the headlines are the “best thing or the worst thing that’s happening in (the city), but most of the time it’s the worst.”

Readers are more motivated to read when they have aesthetically enjoyable reading topics (Pressley, 1998), yet what one reader considers aesthetically enjoyable may differ from another reader, depending upon his or her interests and connections to the text (Rosenblatt, 1995; Rosenblatt, 2005). For African-American boys, the need is greater for texts that match the lives of the readers, when considering both characters and authors (Dunbar, 1999; Tatum, 2005; Wigfield & Asher, 1984; Wood & Jocius, 2013). Boys want to read what is relevant to their lives, representative of their culture, skin color, and masculine behavior (Guthrie & Klauda, 2014; Hall & Piazza, 2008; Senn, 2012). According to Rosenblatt, only the reader himself or herself can achieve a true interaction with the text. As he or she reads, a reader interprets, questions, and analyzes a written text. Rosenblatt’s (1995) theory of reading was evident throughout the findings of this study. Consistent with the theories of reading motivation and connections to one’s personal life, this study found the works of Pressley and Rosenblatt to be true. The boys chose to read about what was relatable to their lives.

Reading materials compatible to the five ethnically diverse boys’ cultural language were nonexistent in the club library. Even when the researcher visited the public library to gather resources, few books included language typical to the spoken dialogue at The Club. Had more materials been available to the readers that were representative of their authentic language, they might have expressed more motivation to read. Attention to one’s language and familiar reading materials are two components that may influence reading motivation.

When given a choice of books, the boys selected the titles with sports themes and those that gave information about the lives of real individuals. A few specific titles preferred among the focus group members were informational books about basketball and biographical texts about sports heroes such as Muhammed Ali, Micheal Jordan, and Wilt Chamberlain, all of whom happen to have a similar ethnicity as the participants. When familiar factors existed, such as interests and ethnicity, the young readers were more motivated to read. The boys longed to read from texts that respected their background. One of the most influential studies in the area of boys and reading motivation was Smith and Wilhelm’s (2002) research with adolescent male participants, named by the authors as The Crew. According to Smith and Wilhelm, reading must be purposeful. They found texts motivated boys when the selections helped them solve a problem or achieve a personal goal.