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Newspapers for boys? Newspapers for girls? Newspapers for everyone!

The purpose of this study was to find out whether using the newspaper as an instructional resource on a regular basis impacts students' reading attitude based on gender. Two hundred seventeen subjects were selected from twelve classrooms in a Midwestern school district. During the first month of the school year, each participant was given the Elementary Reading Attitude Survey (McKenna & Kear, 1990). When the full-scale averages for each group were compared (prior to intervention), the difference was not statistically significant. Immediately following the pre-assessment, six classrooms implemented the Newspaper in Education Program while the other six did not. All other aspects of reading instruction stayed constant. In April, all students again were given the Elementary Reading Attitude Survey (McKenna & Kear, 1990) once more.

This study examined the differences in full-scale scores between the post-surveys of the classes using the Newspaper in Education Program and those not using the program in terms of boys and girls. Data were analyzed using a Two-Way Analysis of Variance. The results indicated that there were statistically significant differences between students who received NIE versus those who did not IF (1, 2160 = 9.675, p = .002]. However, the interaction effect between gender and intervention were not statistically significant. While prior research has shown that males often prefer non-fiction, since the joint effect was not statistically significant, the Newspaper in Education Program seems to work well with both boys and girls. The findings have important implications for reading research and instruction.

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"The careful reader of a few good newspapers can learn more in a year than most scholars do in their great libraries" F.B Sanborn (American Journalist, 1831-1917)

Jon Scieszka, author of The Stinky Cheese Man, is a favorite author of many young children. One can scarcely believe such a prolific author would have a child who is challenged to find enticing reading material--but he does! The debate between learning differences between boys and girls has long been debated, at times in a controversial fashion. Decades ago, educators noted a difference between boys and girls in math and science achievement. As a result of much effort, this disparity has greatly lessened. For example "at grade 12 there is no significant difference between girls and boys in science" (Taylor, 2005, p. 290). Not cognizant of current data, Harvard President Larry Summers angered many when he "questioned girls' intrinsic abilities in math and science" (Strauss, 2005, p. A 12). A similar problem exists in reading. Strauss argues, "Enticing boys to read--and to keep them reading --is the flip side of the sometimes fierce debate about girls and their math and science abilities" (Strauss, 2005, p. A12). Jon Scieszka explains that for years, "you couldn't even say boys and girls were different ... it was taboo in the educational world" (Garfinkle, 2008, p. 1). According to Taylor, "in our zeal to close the gender gap for girls, we may have overlooked the wide gender gap that exists for boys in the area of literacy" (Taylor, 2005, p. 290). Certainly the time has come to accept that children do vary in reading preferences. Scieszka notes that "the biggest change we can make in giving boys a love of reading is to expand our definition of reading beyond fiction" (Garfinkle, 2008, p. 1). Lee Galda of the University of Minnesota notes that "a lot of boys, and not just boys, like nonfiction" (Strauss, 2005, p. A12). Is there a text that is varied enough to have parts that will appeal to both boys and girls, young and old alike? If so, is such a text readily available and affordable for classroom teachers? Will such a text motivate all students to read? Perhaps using the newspaper as an instructional tool for reading/literacy in elementary school is one solution to this quandary.

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to discover how regular use of the Newspaper in Education Program and gender combine to influence elementary students' reading attitude. Some educators espouse the belief that boys read less fiction than girls and prefer text types that are analytical and contain facts more than narrative (Taylor, 2005). Others say that finding texts that all will like is at best unclear because, "there is no consensus on how much genetics, environment, and culture are responsible for the gap" (Strauss, 2005, p. A 12). However, educators using newspapers as an instructional tool on a regular basis have often noticed that a vast majority of students have an affinity for this type of text--boys and girls. Is it possible that something so readily available at any school across the nation might be such an extraordinary motivator for boys and girls?

Possible benefits of the study are abundant and include the improvement of teacher practices within the classroom as well as the teacher education process. Knowing whether or not the use of newspapers as an instructional tool helps motivates boys, girls, or both to read is crucial. Such knowledge will help teacher educators, school administrators, and practitioners better supply and help select text. Although there has been a movement to increase the use of research-based reading practices in the classroom, there is little evidence to link the use of newspapers as an instructional text with motivation for both boys and girls. Thus, the subsequent research question was developed to guide the study:

* Research Question: Does regular use of the Newspaper in Education Program and gender combine to influence elementary students' reading attitude?

Literature Review

The newspaper is a powerful instructional tool that helps each student read for his/her own purposes and become a better reader. Concerning interest, the International Reading Association's Position Statement (IRA) reads, "Newspapers provide a wealth of authentic and interesting reading material" (IRA, 2005, p. 1). This type of text helps learners read for 'real' purposes. They often become engaged in reading, ask questions, search for specific information, attack words and new vocabulary more intently, and show increased comprehension (Duke, 2000).

Reading attitude is an integral aspect of reading. Much of the research in attitude and newspapers in the elementary reading program dates to the 1960's through 1980's. Little recent research has focused on this important aspect of the reading curriculum lately. In 1981, Deroche described a study of a classroom using newspapers on a regular basis. Students showed an increased interest both in reading and current affairs. He also noted this group had an increase in desire to learn new content material (DeRoche, 1981). Another researcher noted that students perceive using the newspaper as 'adult reading.' This is one source of motivation for the student. She also mentioned that nearly all students can find high interest topics in the newspaper that will capture their attention (Kossack, 1986). Finally, in a review of literature, Doug Vance explains that "the most obvious use of the newspaper is to motivate. Students who read about a concept, fact, or person in the newspaper will be more likely to want to learn ... because it has become relevant" (Vance, 1990).

More recently, Wixson and Lipson found that attitude strongly impacts reading proficiency (McKenna & Kear, 1990). Students' motivation to read affects "whether and how they will use comprehension strategies" (Duke & Pearson, 2002, p. 211). Duke and Pearson further claim, "Providing experience reading real texts for real reasons and creating an environment in high-quality talk about text will undoubtedly help" (2002, p. 211). Since attitude and proficiency are interrelated, reading attitude must not be ignored.

Some students find a "way into literacy" through authentic reading that is non-fiction that they do not find through narrative texts. By tapping into this natural curiosity and using non-fiction in the form of newspapers, not only will reading non-fiction become easier and more natural, it may help students have an improved attitude towards reading for recreation, reading for academic purposes, and reading in general (Caswell & Duke, 1998). Thus, newspapers are situated to play a powerful role as an instructional tool to help motivate students to read.

According to Doiron (1995), reading for information can be extremely enjoyable for children. Students are naturally curious and have a thirst to know more about the world around them. They are not bored when they read about facts, data, or information. Yopp and Yopp (2000) report that informational texts capitalize on student interests, create a desire to read more, and motivate students.

The motivating influence of newspapers seems not only to apply to readers in general, but to the struggling reader as well. Cheyney states that "poor readers are more apt to carry newspapers--and read them --than textbooks written at their reading level" (1992, p. ix). Similarly, Amman and Mittelsteadt report that newspapers have none of the negative connotations of texts used in remedial reading. In fact, in their experience, "use of newspapers was seen as giving them positive peer status" (1987, p. 715). The impact of newspapers on attitude towards reading is quite clear in these examples. Struggling students who proudly carry their newspaper and receive positive peer status are likely to perceive reading as an enjoyable, important activity. However, this literature does not delineate if this impact is different between boys and girls.

Decades of teacher observations have shown that children of all ages enjoy working with the newspaper. According to Jones, boys "are more inclined than girls to read informational and nonfiction texts" (Jones, 2005, p. 1). Nell Duke found that male students are likely to prefer informational texts, contrary to what many teachers would predict (Duke & Hall, 2006). However, "schools often dismiss what boys like. No wonder they're not wild about reading" (Sullivan, 2004, p. 36). Yet, little research has examined how a combination of nonfiction and gender impacts the reading attitudes of children.

The issue of boys' lack of reading has recently surfaced. Michael Smith of Temple University found that boys often take longer in learning to read, read less, and often are less enthusiastic (Smith & Wilhelm, 2002). Smith notes that the type of reading some boys prefers is not considered important by many educators, but in reality is invaluable. Michael Sullivan explains that boys tend to identify with men in their lives. Men, in general, are about ten times more likely to read a newspaper than women (Sullivan, 2004). Thus, emulating this role model, he postulates that many boys prefer this type of text.

In contrast, girls have met or exceeded boys in all national reading and writing assessments at all grade levels (Taylor, 2005). This gap continues to widen. Moreover, girls are not as likely to repeat a grade or drop out of school as boys. Finally, girls are more likely to finish college than their male counterparts (The New Gender Gap, 2005).

Research literature delineates several ideas to help the teacher rectify this situation. Text availability, choice of text, having a variety of fiction and nonfiction, focusing on student interest, and valuing multiple text types are all suggestions (Taylor, 2005). Taylor does warn against creating stereotypes, such as declaring that all boys enjoy a certain type of literature. The suggestions to entice boys to read made in this article of the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy appear very sensible. However, at second glance, they appear to be applicable not just to boys, but to all students. Is it possible that one genre, such as a newspaper, might contain elements appealing to both genders and multiples preferences?

Finding if the Newspapers in Education Program (NIE) impacts reading attitudes of boys and girls differently is important. Use of this media as a teaching tool has drastically increased (Abbott, 2005). In 1992, fewer than 700 NIE programs were in existence (Cheyney, 1992). Today, over 950 NIE programs are collaborating with schools and educators across the United States to promote reading proficiency (Abbott, 2005). Renewed research in Newspaper in Education may provide an impetus and rationale for including newspapers as a vital portion of the elementary curriculum. Most of all, innovative exploration in this realm may help teachers better motivate all students to read.

Theoretical Framework

The current study is grounded in Rosenblatt's Theory of Reader Response. In spite of new literacies, such as the Internet, game-related literacies, text messaging and the like, daily reading of newspapers remains an integral part of the American culture. For example, a recent Scarborough Poll found that 1,681,000 people read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution over the course of a week (Scarborough Research, 2009). Rosenblatt first published Literature as Exploration in 1938, the seminal work describing Reader Response Theory.

Instead of viewing the text as the sole source of information, Reader Response Theory promotes a reciprocal relationship between the text and the reader (Rosenblatt, 1938). The reader's construction of meaning from a text is predominant in this theoretical model. Readers indeed draw information from the text, but also use background experiences to construct meaning. Thus, not all readers glean the identical meaning from the same article. Therefore, constructing meaning from a text originates from a transaction between the text and reader within a specific social context. For purposes of the present study, Reader Response Theory is best able to explain the process that occurs when students read the newspaper, blending their background knowledge with the printed text. Readers rely on the physical copy of the newspaper for basic information. However, the readers' background knowledge and experiences are essential to understand the full meaning the author intended.

Research Design and Procedures

This study employed primarily quantitative analyses to study the nature of the relationship between the reading attitudes of boys and girls among students using the Newspaper in Education Program. In the fall of the school year all students were given the Elementary Reading Attitude Survey (McKenna & Kear, 1990). This measure was used as a pre-assessment to determine comparability of the groups (those using and those not using the Newspaper in Education Program). Not only were the means very close, there was no statistical difference between the mean scores of the two groups. Initially, teachers attended a training workshop sponsored through a local newspaper. Throughout the school year, one group (six classes) used the Newspaper in Education Program regularly. At least once each week, the treatment group used the newspaper as a text as part of Guided Reading. Working in small groups, students chose an article to read. Each group, after careful instruction and modeling of the strategy, utilized Reciprocal Teaching (Palinscar & Brown, 1984) to read the article. Additionally, students were given time daily to read the newspaper independently (as a choice) during the time allotted for sustained silent reading. The other group did not use the program. Besides this, all other facets of reading instruction remained constant. In the spring, all students were given the Elementary Reading Attitude Survey (McKenna & Kear, 1990) again. The full-scale scores for each group were evaluated using both a comparison of means for both groups as well as independent t-tests. The data were also disaggregated by gender for purposes of this study.

Participants and Data Collection

Two hundred seventeen third, fourth, and fifth grade students participated in this study, including forty-three boys (N=96) and fifty-six girls (N= 121). Forty-five percent of students (N=99) used the Newspaper in Education Program, while fifty-four percent (N= 118) did not. Students came from twelve elementary school classes in six elementary schools in a Midwestern, urban setting. The Newspaper in Education Program was included as a regular portion of the reading/literacy class.

Data Analyses & Findings

Finding whether or not regular use of the Newspaper in Education Program and gender combines to influence elementary students' reading attitude is crucial for teachers who are interested in motivating all children to develop an insatiable appetite for reading. Results of this study indicate that the two groups (treatment and control) did not differ significantly in terms of reading attitude before treatment began (see Table One). All students had very similar (and thus comparable) attitudes toward reading.

After using the Newspaper in Education Program for an academic year, the mean of the treatment group's full-scale scores on the Elementary Reading Attitude Survey was numerically higher than that of the control group (see Table Two). Moreover, the difference between the mean of the treatment group and control group's full-scale score on the Elementary Reading Attitude Survey was statistically significant at the 0.002 level. This indicates that for the entire group of students, those who used the Newspaper in Education Program on a regular basis enjoyed a higher reading attitude rating than those who did not use this program.

Both gender and interaction effect between gender and intervention were not statistically significant as shown in Tables Three and Four. The data also depict that both boys and girls in the NIE intervention scored higher than their Non-NIE counterparts. The girls' (using NIE) slightly higher scores were not statistically significant. This shows that both boys and girls who used the Newspaper in Education Program enjoyed a higher reading attitude than those who did not.

Discussion

Regular use of the Newspaper in Education Program seems to have a noteworthy influence on the reading attitude of boys and girls in the third, fourth, and fifth-grades. As a supplement to the basal reader, students using the Newspaper in Education program tend to have a more positive attitude toward reading in general. Educators who want to motivate or stimulate positive attitudes towards reading may want to try the Newspaper in Education Program as one possible option. Because the joint (gender and intervention) effect was not statistically significant, the NIE intervention method seems to work well with both boys and girls. This finding is of utmost importance for teachers who want to motivate all children--boys and girls--to love reading. Because this approach seems to motivate both, this study seems to indicate that it is appropriate for both genders. While newspapers are a supplemental text that helps children learn to read, the teacher may feel comfortable including this text type, knowing they can help avoid the often heard sentiment among children: "Often books that were favorites of mom or teachers and librarians will feel like 'going to the dentist' for boys (Garfinkle, 2008)."

Future Research

Future research in this realm of textual type is sorely needed. Replication of the study in the same setting to examine whether or not the results of this study stand up over time and with different groups of students will validate the original findings. Also, replicating this study with a larger sample size will add further credibility to the results. Duplicating this study in different settings with different groups of students to find if varied groups alter the results also will help improve the ability to generalize the findings.

Examining how use of the Newspaper in Education Program using online newspapers compares with traditional "paper" newspapers is another area for future research. Realizing that many readers of newspapers now read on-line, educators need to understand if an on-line version has the same appeal as does the traditional, printed newspaper. Finally, examining how students' attitude toward academic subject matter and current events varies among the groups using and not using the Newspaper in Education Program will provide useful information to prudent educators.

Conclusion

* Use of newspapers as an instructional tool seems to motivate students (both boys and girls) to read. The Killeen Herald (Newspapers in the Classroom Work, 2009) outlines other reasons to include the paper as an instructional tool:

* Students feel important when using a text used by "adults;"

* Newspapers bridge the gap between school and the real world;

* Newspapers have something to appeal to everyone's interest (e.g. news,comics, sports, shopping, ...);

* The information in the newspaper is up-to-date; and

* The newspaper documents history as it happens.

Therefore, when making choices for classroom materials, the newspaper is a natural option. Certainly, teachers of reading want all students to learn to read. However, having students who choose to read is at least or possibly more important. Realizing that one type of reading material (such as a basal reader, trade book, or other form of literature) does not appeal to all students, the newspaper provides another viable type of text. Do you still need some ideas to get your Newspaper in Education Program started in your classroom? The Seattle Times has a wonderful, free resource showing over one hundred ways to use the newspaper in multiple subject areas available at:

Perhaps Nadine Terrill of Columbian Elementary School in Pueblo, Colorado summarizes the use of newspapers best: "With the newspaper you always have a fresh resource ... There's no doubt the kids like it because they ask to read the paper during their free time" (Terrill, 2009). So, what are some benefits of the Newspaper in Education program? The answers are countless: Improved attitude toward reading for girls and boys, a continually changing, up-to-date text, content for which students have background knowledge, multiple formats to read (e.g. sales ads, articles, comics, sports, news, etc ...), and a compelling text that is hard to "put down" are all replies commonly heard among teachers. What's not to like about using newspaper in education? Nothing! Give this type of text a try sometime soon!

References

Abbott, J. (2005). Newspaper in Education. Retrieved November 16, 2005. Web site: http://www.naafoundation.org/artpage.cfm?ai d=6578

Amman, R., & Mittelsteadt, S. (1987). Turning on turned off students: Using newspapers with senior high remedial readers. Journal of Reading, 30 (8), 708-715.

Caswell, L.J., & Duke, N.K. (1998). Non-narrative as a catalyst for literacy development. Language Arts, 75 (2), 108-117.

Cheyney, A.B. (1992). Teaching reading skills through the newspaper. Newark, DE: IRA.

DeRoche, E.F. (1981). Newspapers in education: What we know. Newspaper Research Journal, 2 (3), 59-63.

Duke, N. K. (2000). 3.6 Minutes per day: The scarcity of informational texts in first grade. Reading Research Quarterly, 35 (2), 202-224.

Duke, N. K., & Hall, L.A. (2006). The authentic literacy activities for developing comprehension and writing. The Reading Teacher, 60 (4), 344-355.

Duke, N., & Pearson, P. D. (2002). Effective practices for developing reading comprehension. In A.E. Farstrup & S.J. Samuels (Eds.), What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction (pp. 211-212). Newark, DE: IRA.

Garfinkle, S. (2008, September 26). Turning boys on to reading. The Washington Post.

International Reading Association. (1995). On newspapers in education. Retrieved October 2004. Web site: http://www.reading.org/downloads/resolutions /resolution95_newspapers in education.pdf

Jones, J.J. (2005). Priority male: If we want boys to love books, it's important to recognize what they want. School Librao, Journal, 51 (3), 37.

Kossack, S. (1986). Realism: The newspaper and the older learner. Journal of Reading, 29 (8), 768-769.

McKenna, M.C., & Kear, D.J. (1990). Measuring attitude toward reading: A new tool for teachers. The Reading Teacher, 43 (9), 626-639.

The new gender gap (2005, April). The Education Reporter, No. 231. Retrieved from: http://www.eagleforum.org/educate/2005/apr0 5/reading.html

Newspapers in the classroom work! (2009, February 26). The Killeen Herald, on-line.

Pallinscar, A.S., & Brown, A.L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities. Cognition and Instruction, 1, 117-175.

Rosenblatt, L. (1938). Literature as Exploration. New York: Appleton-Century.

International Reading Association. (1995). On newspapers in education. Retrieved October 2004. Web site:

Scarborough Research. (2009). Scarborough research releases newspaper readership analysis. Retrieved February 13, 2009. Web site:

Smith, M.W., & Wilhelm, J.D. (2002). Reading don't fix no Chevy's. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Strauss. (2005, March 15). Educators differ on why boys lag in reading. The Washington Post.

Sullivan, M. (2004). Why Johnny won't read. School Library. Journal, 50 (8), 36-39.

Taylor, D.L. (2005). Not just boring stories: Reconsidering the gender gap for boys. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 48 (4), 280-298,

Terrill, N. (2009). Teacher quotes. The Pueblo Chieftain. Retrieved January 12, 2009. Web site:

Vance, D. (1990). Strategic learning through the newspaper. Journal of the Wisconsin State Reading Association, 34, 27-30.

Yopp, R.H., & Yopp, H.K. (2000). The Reading Teacher, 53 (5), 410-423.

STEPHAN SARGENT, ED.D.

Northeastern State University

MWARUMBA MWAVITA, PH.D.

Oklahoma State University

MELINDA SMITH, ED.D.

Northeastern State University
Table One: Pretest: Mean Scores, Standard Deviations, and
Sample Sizes

 Student Not Using
 the Newspaper Student Using
 In Education the Newspaper
 Program In Education
 (Non-NIE) Program (NIE)

 Pretest 99
 Mean 58.6
 SD 9.9
Sample Size (N) 118
 59.2
 12.2

Note: Maximum Score = 80
Pretest t= 0.412, df = 215, p = 0.680
Non-NIE: Control Group; NIE: Treatment Group

Table Two: Posttest: Mean Scores, Standard Deviations, and
Sample Sizes

 Student Not Using the Student Using the
 Newspaper In Education Newspaper In Education
 Program (Non-NIE) Program (NIE)

 Posttest 99
 Mean 62.9
 SD 10.4
Sample Size (N) 118
 58.1
 12.3

Note: Maximum Score = 40
Posttest t = -3.149, df = 215, p = 0.002
Non-NIE: Control Group; NIE: Treatment Group

Table Three: NIE and Non-NIE Means, Standard Deviations,
and Sample Size for Males

 and Females

 Male Female

 Mean SD N Mean SD N

NIE 61.6 11.3 51 63.9 9.6 67
Non-NIE 56 12.6 45 59.3 12.1 54

Table Four: A Two-way Analysis of Variance: Intervention and Gender

 Type III Mean
 Sum of
Source Squares df Square F Sig.

Corrected Model 1606.553 (a) 3 535.518 4.214 .006
Intercept 773953.566 1 773953.566 6090.43 .000
NIE/Not NIE 1229.416 1 1229.416 9.675 .002
Boy/Girl 342.194 1 342.194 2.693 .102
N1E/Not NIE *
Boy/Girl 1.739 1 1.739 .014 .907
Error 27067.374 213 127.077
Total 828099.000 217
Corrected Total 28673.926 216

(a): R Squared =.056 (Adjusted R Squared = .043)
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Author:Sargent, Stephan; Mwavita, Mwarumba; Smith, Melinda
Publication:Reading Improvement
Date:Dec 22, 2009
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