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Improving Children’s Reading Attitudes. Michael C. McKenna University of Virginia. Sharon Walpole University of Delaware. Today’s Goals. Appreciate the role of attitude in acquiring literacy. Recognize key factors in fostering positive attitudes toward reading.

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Michael C. McKenna University of Virginia

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Improving Children’s

Reading Attitudes

Michael C. McKenna

University of Virginia

Sharon Walpole

University of Delaware


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Today’s Goals

  • Appreciate the role of attitude in acquiring literacy.

  • Recognize key factors in fostering positive attitudes toward reading.

  • Learn about effective methods of improving reading attitudes.


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Back in School . . .

  • Administer an attitude inventory to one class (grade 2 or 3) and analyze the results.

  • Conference with the teacher about possible steps that might improve attitudes.

  • Follow-up with the teacher on the success of the steps taken.


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What is attitude?

A learned predisposition to respond in a consistently favorable or unfavorable manner with respect to a given object.

– Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975, p. 6, original emphasis


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In other words . . .

  • Attitude is an emotional response to the prospect of reading.

  • Attitudes can involve any proposed behavior:

    • Your attitude toward eating chocolate may be more positive than your attitude toward eating broccoli.

    • A child’s attitude toward spending free time reading may differ from his or her attitude toward other ways of spending free time.


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General

Specific

Attitudes can range from general to specific.


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General

Specific

Attitude toward Reading

Attitude toward Reading

about animal characters

Attitude toward Reading

Books by Arnold Lobel

Attitude toward Reading

Frog and Toad books


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Instruction that builds positive attitudes toward reading should . . .

  • Provide successful and engaging experiences with reading.

  • Strengthen beliefs that reading will be pleasant.

  • Challenge beliefs about peer expectations concerning reading.


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Key research findings

The bad news:

  • Attitudes toward reading tend to worsen over time.

  • The decline begins in grade one!

  • Attitudes worsen most rapidly for the worst readers.

  • Girls have more positive attitudes than boys.

  • The gender difference is unrelated to reading ability and is documented in many languages and countries.

  • Ethnicity does not, in itself, influence attitudes.

    The good news:

  • Some instructional approaches can be effective at improving attitudes.


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McKenna, Kear, & Ellsworth (1995)


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A Matthew Effect

McKenna, Kear, & Ellsworth (1995)


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Key research findings

The bad news:

  • Attitudes toward reading tend to worsen over time.

  • The decline begins in grade one!

  • Attitudes worsen most rapidly for the worst readers.

  • Girls have more positive attitudes than boys.

  • The gender difference is unrelated to reading ability and is documented in many languages and countries.

  • Ethnicity does not, in itself, influence attitudes.

    The good news:

  • Some instructional approaches can be effective at improving attitudes.


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\


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Key research findings

The bad news:

  • Attitudes toward reading tend to worsen over time.

  • The decline begins in grade one!

  • Attitudes worsen most rapidly for the worst readers.

  • Girls have more positive attitudes than boys.

  • The gender difference is unrelated to reading ability and is documented in many languages and countries.

  • Ethnicity does not, in itself, influence attitudes.

    The good news:

  • Some instructional approaches can be effective at improving attitudes.


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Key research findings

The bad news:

  • Attitudes toward reading tend to worsen over time.

  • The decline begins in grade one!

  • Attitudes worsen most rapidly for the worst readers.

  • Girls have more positive attitudes than boys.

  • The gender difference is unrelated to reading ability and is documented in many languages and countries.

  • Ethnicity does not, in itself, influence attitudes.

    The good news:

  • Some instructional approaches have proved effective at improving attitudes.


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Some effective approaches

  • Facilitating interaction with better readers.

  • Using high-quality literature chosen according to interests.

  • Reading aloud to children.

  • Stressing links to children’s lives and experiences.

  • Teaching comprehension strategies.

  • Arranging cross-age interactions.

  • Providing chances to discuss literature.

    – McKenna (2001)


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The NRP Report was not conclusive. However, it seems likely that incentives might improve attitudes if:

They improve proficiency by encouraging practice.

They expose children to lots of engaging texts.

What about using incentives?


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Some GARF assumptions . . .

  • Explicit instruction in the five key areas is not enough without a willingness on the part of children to apply what they learn.

  • The National Reading Panel recognized this truth by addressing affective factors.

  • Many instructional approaches build skills and attitudes simultaneously.


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Coaches’ Corner

  • What is your perception about the level of reading attitudes in your school?

  • Which of the research-based instructional approaches do see most often?

  • Which do you seldom see?

  • Which not at all?


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How do I begin tackling the problem of reading attitudes in my school?

Let’s start by assessing the scope of the problem. To do that we’ll use a reading attitude survey.


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

Read this article. It introduces the Elementary Reading Attitude Survey (ERAS), a nationally normed group instrument that is quick to administer.


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What have we learned?

  • What are the two 10-item subscales of the ERAS?

  • At which RF grades can the ERAS be given?

  • How do you introduce the ERAS to children?

  • How do you encourage honest responses?

  • How do you score the ERAS?

  • How do you find class means of raw scores?

  • How do locate percentile ranks?


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Let’s Plan . . .

  • Think of a classroom at grade 2 or 3 where you suspect attitudes are a concern.

  • List the attitude-building instructional approaches that the teacher does not use or uses too seldom.


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Back at School . . .

  • Arrange with the teacher to administer the ERAS.

  • Duplicate, administer, and score it.

  • Prepare a class roster with percentile ranks.

  • Arrange a conference with the teacher.

  • At the conference, review the ERAS results.

  • Focus on the attitude-building instructional approaches that the teacher does not use or uses too seldom.

  • Make a follow-up plan to revisit the teacher.


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References

Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (1975). Belief, attitude, intention, and behavior. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

McKenna, M. C. (2001). Development of reading attitudes. In L. Verhoeven & C. Snow (Eds.), Literacy and motivation: Reading engagement in individuals and groups (pp. 135-158). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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

McKenna, M. C., Kear, D. J., & Ellsworth, R. A. (1995). Children’s attitudes toward reading: A national survey. Reading Research Quarterly, 30, 934-956.


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