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Enhancing the attitudes of children toward reading: implications for teachers and principals.

Affective and cognitive factors impacting reading attitudes are presented for teachers and principals, specific elements affecting reading attitude and consequent reading performance are delineated. Both negative and positive experiences impacting childrens' resultant feelings toward the reading act are discussed. Substantive items intended to prevent problems in reading attitude are described, including influences beyond the reader's control. Attributes, found to have had a high correlation with how children feel about reading, have been investigated. With the aspiration of assisting teachers and principals in immediately employing feasible solutions in their classrooms and schools, ten specific suggestions designed to promote positive reading attitudes in elementary school children ar presented.

The media, politicians, the general public and many in the field of education believe that schools are failing to teach children to read. Teachers and principals have an enormous impact on the attitudes children develop toward reading. Some children love and enjoy the task of reading and are proficient and skilled in this area. Too many children, however, view reading in a negative way, and are failing in school as a result. It is important for teachers and principals to realize that the attitudes children possess toward reading can be changed or enhanced.

While primarily a cognitive act, reading is also influenced by affective functions (Gambrell, 1996). These domains, furthermore, do not appear to function independently (Maudeville, 1994). Development of skills in the affective domain is crucial if children are to experience any degree of success with reading (Diffy and Roehler, 1993).

Motivation, interest, and attitude are important skill areas to develop in the affective domain (Den Heyer, 1981). Self-concept is an additional affective component of extreme importance in reading instruction (Tesser, Felson, & Suls, (Eds.) 2000; Quandt, 1984; Lang, 1976). Enhancement in the development of personal interests, values, a positive attitude and the ability to read for both information and enjoyment, is gleaned through attention to the affective component of reading instruction (Calkins, 2001; Stanovich, 2000).

The extent to which children are successful with reading and how much they actually read is directly related to how they feel about reading (Report of the National Reading Panel, 2000). In addition, evidence suggests that there are some personal attributes and environmental factors that negatively influence the attitudes children have toward reading. These elements are: achievement, self-concept, parents and the home environment, instructional practices and special programs, gender, test intelligence, socioeconomic status, and interests (Alexander & Filler, 1976). Looking at these areas in relationship to childrens' reading, these elements reveal that teachers and principals need to consider attitudes of children when planning or supervising instruction in reading, and that positive attitudes toward reading can be developed through careful planning. This article presents some appropriate activities for teachers and principals to employ in their elementary school reading classed to help children overcome their negative view of reading.

Activities to enhance attitudes toward reading

1. Develop an informal interest inventory to determine interests of children. Once interests have been indentified, provide books and other reading materials with the interests in mind. Stock classroom bookshelves inexpensively by buying books at garage sales and used bookstores. New books can be obtained through grantwriting initiatives. Motivation levels tend to be higher when children are provided materials in which they have had some input in selecting for the classroom.

2. To motivate children to want to read design assigned tasks so that they will experience success. Children have a tendency to enjoy doing the things that they experience success with, and they dislike tasks they cannot do well.

3. Reward children with acts of praise for their accomplishments in reading. Children benefit from rewards and recognition for any degree of progress made. Insuring that no child is missed, display evidence of their reading successes throughout the school. Teachers and principals should tell the children how proud they are of specific achievements made by sending letters of commendation home to parents.

4. Teachers should discuss with children the usefulness of the reading tasks they do. Children are motivated when they see the usefulness of what they are doing, and enthusiasm wanes when they perceive that what they are doing is merely busy work.

5. Provide field trips for children. Direct experiences are always better than indirect ones in which the reader can only experience vicariously. For example, some children may only read about the Amish in a book. Trying to imagine themselves traveling by horse and buggy or making some predictions about what it must be like to function without water or electricity is challenging. It is much more enlightening if these children can actually visit an Amish community and observe these practices first hand. Teachers need assistance and support of principals in. order to provide meaningful learning experiences of this nature.

6. Be patient with the language usage of children. More and more children are coming to our schools with limited English proficiency. The English language is one of the most difficult to learn. One of the reasons for this is because the English language contains so many generalizations rather than rules with only occasional exceptions. Language is essential for expressing the emotions and ideas, and perhaps some of the outright traumatic issues, some of these children face. Ridiculing a child's language can have damaging long-term results.

7. Teachers should involve everyone in class discussions. Engaging all children in the learning process builds self-concept and the children begin to sense that they are an important member of the class.

8. Be open, warm, and approachable with children. When children feel they can go to their teacher or principal with literally any concern that they have, they have developed a high level of trust in individuals who are vital part of their lives. When children feel comfortable they are confident in asking for assistance and their educational performance in reading is maximized.

9. Avoid comparing a child with the other children. Reading progress should be compared with the child's own previous work. This practice usually has a motivational effect and does not cause undue embarrassment to a child. Embarrassing a child could have devastating results in terms of reading performance.

10. When using reading groups, the teacher should minimize the focus on the differences among the group members to avoid giving children the impression that unless they are members of the top group they are not worthy people. Children of high ability might be grouped with children of low ability to study together, about something of common interest. Frequently varying the way groups are formed provides for an excellent preventative measure in this respect.

Principals and teachers can positively impact the feelings children develop toward reading. By understanding how some personal and environmental factors negatively or positively influence attitudes principals and teachers can plan instructional experiences in reading which will have desirable results in terms of shaping how children view the reading act. Schools are empowered, then, through how they behave in the planning and implementation of instruction, to help the children who have been entrusted to their care, to succeed.


Alexander, J.E. & Fuller, R. G. (1976). Attitudes and Reading. Neward, DE: International Reading Association.

Calkins, L.M. (2001). The art of teaching reading. New York: Longman.

Den Heyer, K. (1981). Reading and motivation. In J.R. Edwards (ed.), Language and literacy: The social psychology of reading (pp. 381-396). Silver Spring, MO: Institute of Modern Language.

Duffey, G.G., & Roehler, L.R. (1993). Improving classroom reading instruction: A decision-making approach (pp. 104-114). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.

Lang, J.B. (1976). Self-concept and reading achievement: An annotated bibliography. Reading Teacher, 29, 787-793.

Maudeville, T.E. (1994). KWLA: Linking the Affective and Cognitive Domains. Reading Teacher, 47, 679-680.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (200). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Report of the National Reading Panel. Washington, DC: National Institutes of Mental Health.

Quandt, I.J., & Selznick. (1984) Self-concept and reading. Newark. DE: International Reading Association.

Stanovich, K.E. (200). Progress in understanding reading: scientific foundations and new frontiers. New York: Guilford Press.

Tesser, A., Felson, R.B., & Suis, J.M. (Eds.) (2000) Psychological perspectives on self and identity. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

JERRY E. GARRETT, ED.D. Department of Professional Studies School of Education - Neff 250K Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne
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Author:Garrett, Jerry E.
Publication:Reading Improvement
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2002
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