Indiana Reading Journal Volume 44 Issue 1 - Page 31

Tatum (2005) narrowed the study with male adolescents, focusing entirely on African American individuals. He found that reading must be specific to the African American reader, primarily on empowering the reader. Functional literature was not enough to motivate readers who needed to learn from reading that is aimed at “fixing their lives” (p. 70).

Varied selections motivate readers.

Variations significant to reading pertain to situation, social interaction, and genre or style of reading materials. Reading is situational, influenced by a particular setting. When discussing reading at school, the boys spoke mostly about textbooks and assigned readings. Out of school, the boys referenced very little reading. The reading in out of school settings included minor occasions of magazine, newspaper, and media literacy.

Students in the 21st century spend more time on the computer each year (Scholastic, 2010). Most boys spend less time reading and more time engaged with technology when compared with girls of the same age (Steinkuelher, 2010). Yet, those statistics may not be true of all students, and they may vary in the technology sites visited. As Hobbs (2010) found to be true, African American and Hispanic children spend more time than white children viewing media; however, they may not all have access to Internet usage. Such was the case with the five ethnically diverse fifth grade boys in this study. They did not all have access to Internet usage at home and did not all have social media accounts; yet, they spent time in and out of school playing games on the computer and viewing media.

Computer games and YouTube videos were popular among the group of boys in this study. They spent computer time playing games and viewing videos rather than surfing the Internet or exploring websites. When prompted, they acknowledged that they read when on the computer, but they felt that the reading was different from what they did when they read books. Consistent to the participants in studies of Smith and Wilhelm (2002) and Pitcher et al. (2007), the boys did not perceive technology as a form of reading or literacy. Instead, they perceived their time engaged with technology as a relaxing and social activity. Culture and privilege influence one’s accessibility to media, and therefore, affect whether or not one may perceive digital literacy as a form of reading.

The five ethnically diverse fifth grade boys often preferred social reading to independent or silent reading, regardless of the setting. When at school, the boys hurriedly finished independent work in order to gather in groups, and they sat with peers for social reading. At The Club, the boys huddled around one book reading and conversing synchronously. Each example suggests that opportunities to read socially may motivate readers.

When given the opportunity to read from magazines rather than traditional books, the boys enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity, claiming that the magazines were more entertaining. Of course, the magazines were representative of the boys’ interests in sports, particularly World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). The inviting text structure offered short articles and a format that allowed the boys to read out of sequence. They particularly appreciated the colorful photographs, which enticed the boys to read about the familiar information and the athletes’ lives.

Consistent to the findings of Pressley (1998) and Farris et al. (2009), the boys’ reading motivation was affected by selections with appealing covers and aesthetically enjoyable reading topics. The magazines included many of the factors described in the earlier research. As a contrast to textbooks and other books traditionally used in school, magazines are thinner, include short articles, and have a large amount of colorful graphic text support. A textbook is not a preferred form of reading material; thus, authentic reading materials may motivate readers more than textbooks.

The titles mentioned during the focus sessions mirrored findings of earlier research. In a similar study involving fifth grade boys, Farris et al. (2009) identified reading preferences which included books in a series, books by favorite authors, factual books, and those short in length. Both titles, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants, are from a series of related books. Another book mentioned, In the Land of the Lawn Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales, is a series of short stories. Other selections mentioned during the focus groups included nonfiction texts, newspapers, and magazines. Each of these readings is consistent with the reading preferences as cited in the study. Boys prefer reading comics and humorous books (Merisu-Storm, 2006; Ruttle, 2004; Wigfield & Asher, 1984), selections consistent to the findings of this study.

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