Some of the professional literature on adolescent reading motivation suggests that teenagers are disinterested or non-motivated readers and as they move through the adolescent years their motivation to read diminishes. On the other hand, some teens are willing to read but get discouraged from reading for various reasons. With this being said, it is obvious that the middle school years are a critical juncture in adolescents’ lives where their reading actions or inactions can have long-lasting benefits or consequences. Literacy plays a vital role in a person’s success throughout life, and motivation plays an integral role in the acquisition of literacy skills. Therefore, motivational factors cannot be overlooked in learning situations, particularly during these critical learning years.
Reading motivation is a complex and multidimensional construct that can be influenced by many factors ranging from interest to reading ability. So what can be done during the teenage years to encourage and motivate students to read? Both parents and teachers can take measures to help young readers become more motivated to read on a regular basis. Understanding four important factors that influence their reading habits is an important place to start.
The first factor to examine is choice. Students are more motivated to read if they have a choice in selecting reading materials that are of interest to them. More proficient readers generally have better strategies and more skill in selecting books on their own than do less able readers; therefore, reading guidance becomes important.
A second motivational factor to consider is interest. Teens are very decisive about the types of reading materials that are of interest to them. Teens are often interested in reading certain genres with fantasy, action/adventure, mysteries, and series books being some of their favorite choices.
Reading ability is a third factor that influences adolescent reading motivation. Teenagers are more likely to want to do things they do well. It is only logical that teens who read well, read more. Adolescents with lower reading abilities who struggle with reading find it more difficult to read, and often avoid reading altogether when they can. Practice and time spent reading is the very thing that many teens need to improve their reading abilities and skills.
A fourth and final component to consider in the reading motivation equation is time. As young people move into the adolescent years, the demands on their time increase substantially. Reading often takes a back seat to other activities such as sports, various types of lessons, responsibilities at home, and schoolwork, to name just a few. Even though many teens like to read, being involved in a variety of activities cuts down on the time they spend reading. Young people need to learn how to become effective managers of their own time in order to create personal schedules that will accommodate the many activities in which they are involved. In an ideal situation, students should incorporate time for reading into their personal schedules.
Teachers and parents can help teens become more motivated to read by providing opportunities for students to have choice in selecting books that are of interest to them. Scheduling frequent visits to libraries and bookstores, and recommending good books can also be helpful. Parents can help their children schedule time at home that is set aside for reading, and teachers can create schedules and activities during their class time that require students to read. Both parents and teachers need to help our young people see the value that reading holds and assist them in obtaining materials that will spark their interest and desire to read. We need to do all that we can to assist adolescents in becoming lifelong, engaged readers and consumers of written information.