Aspects that influence children's reading motivation

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Aspects that influence children's reading motivation

Literacy is generally and conventionally defined as the ability to read and write at the level of skills required for effective communication. It is, however, a well-known fact that South African learners on average have such a low reading proficiency that more than 60% of them are not able to read fluently and with comprehension. This dire state of affairs has been confirmed by international and national reading surveys like The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls 2011). In addition to the Pirls study, other national and international studies also confirm the poor reading proficiency of South African learners. These include the Southern and East Africa Consortium for Monitoring Education (Sacmeq), EFA Global Monitoring Report (EFA GMR) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies (Timss 2015). Although reading proficiency is decreasing worldwide, South Africa is one of the countries where learners’ reading proficiency is of the lowest in the world. More than 40% of South African learners have not mastered reading proficiency skills when compared with average international levels.

It is imperative that everything possible should be done to rectify this situation, which is caused by a plethora of factors. In this article the focus falls on the possibility that reading motivation might be an important solution that could improve reading proficiency and reverse the current situation. The role of using and/or creating reading material that learners will want to read should be considered the departure point for creating reading material for children. Research on this has indicated that reading for pleasure is often the missing element in literacy development. The unacceptably low reading proficiency of South African children and the potential of the enjoyment of reading to have an impact on children’s reading proficiency form the essence of this article which suggests a possible solution for increasing reading motivation among South African children.

This article draws from of a larger study which investigated humour as a possible key to reading motivation. Reading motivation is regarded as one of the most important factors that can be used to persuade reluctant readers between six and twelve years old to read. The term reading motivation is described and discussed, taking into consideration related factors that have a bearing on reading motivation, like self-concept, the value of reading, the selection of books as well as the way in which children can be encouraged to read. The focus is, therefore, to find tools to target the literacy problem by looking at possible solutions. A paradigm shift from a problem-centred to a problem-solving approach is preferred in this study.

Reading motivation and reading appraisal are linked. Children's appreciation for reading is influenced by their attitude towards reading. By paying attention to readers' attitude toward reading, reading motivators can determine what the learners enjoy reading. An enjoyment of reading produces reading motivation. In an effort to encourage children to appreciate reading, it is necessary to understand their information and reading needs. Children's reading motivation depends directly on how and whether the adult role players understand their reading needs.

Surveys that investigated the reading attitude of a variety of South African children all agree that a very low percentage of learners enjoy reading. This reiterates and emphasises the need for research on the promotion of reading motivation to ensure reading pleasure. In the study on which this article is based, humour is investigated as a possible key to enhance reading motivation.

Humour refers to a comical, absurd or contradictory situation that affords pleasure. An individual's sense of humour indicates his or her personal cognitive, emotional, behavioural and social characteristics. Humour can therefore improve emotional, motivational, cognitive, social and psychological behaviour.

Several researchers found that learners prefer reading material that contains humour. Humour seems to reinforce an intrinsic motivation to read and learn. To interpret humour, children develop cognitive skills on various levels. In the teaching and learning situation humour can be used to build relationships, to empower learners, to stimulate interest and thinking and to gain self-esteem, a positive attitude and values. When children read humorous literature, they participate in a cognitive game because words and concepts are used in surprising, unusual or contradictory ways. Such cognitive activities provide pleasure that leads to increased creativity, memory and social values like a sense of responsibility, helpfulness and generosity.

Humour is used as an instrument by authors to convey ideas, but it can also be used by reading mediators and facilitators, be these parents or teachers. These adults should sharpen the child’s mind to be sensitive to humour in children's stories, thereby developing children's reading and life skills and expanding their horizon of expectations. A series of models and practices is discussed in which the application of humour is used to improve or encourage the reading motivation of children.

In summary, when children are motivated to read, they tend to enjoy and understand the reading process and have confidence in their ability to read. Hence, children develop an appreciation for reading that enables them to read with enthusiasm and curiosity and to think critically about the challenges of the text before them.

Reading is far more than just a cognitive process. The affective component of the reading process is equally important. Role players such as parents and teachers need to keep in mind both the cognitive and the affective components of the reading process. When children enjoy reading they tend to understand the reading process and have confidence in their ability to read. A love for reading already develops in a child's earliest years.

This article concludes that, based on previous research, there is little doubt that humour might be a way to improve children’s reading pleasure. A deeper investigation into the mechanisms underlying humour, a better understanding of humour development in children and a knowledge of children's unique sense of humour might increase the production of reading material that children enjoy.

Keywords: children's literature; humour; reading engagement; reading motivation; reading needs; reading pleasure; reading promotion; reading strategies

Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans: Aspekte wat kinders se leesmotivering beïnvloed

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