The Happy Reader

Good reading projects in school stimulate students’ desire to keep reading.

It is impossible to point out all the prerequisites for this, as enthusiasm for reading encompasses several factors which influence each other. Ranking criteria for success with regards to stimulation of reading will vary from plan to plan, but the students’ motivation is a prerequisite in all reading projects, and motivation is often also the foremost mark of the happy reader. 

Skill level
Many children start school with a lot of motivation and high expectations towards learning to read. Reading is a greatly valued skill. The importance of being successful in this is quickly and clearly made apparent to the child. It is therefore important that the feeling of mastering becomes dominant in the child’s reading situation. One of the criteria for a successful reading project is that it gives all the children the feeling that reading is enjoyable and something they can master – regardless of their skill level.

The students’ experience
Motivation is influenced by the teacher sharing his or her own experience as valuable and important. Whether or not a project is successful, cannot be counted in number of pages read. It can hardly be considered successful if the student closes the last book thinking “Phew, finally done. It’s going to be a long time before I open another book!”. A reading project can be said to be successful to the extent that it motivates further reading and creates curious readers who enjoy reading. The students will then choose new texts to read and meet new reading activities with a positive attitude.

External reward
The use of external or material rewards can be a good motivator at the start of a reading project. External rewards work best if introduced for a limited period of time. It may be dependent on the number of books read individually or by the whole class, on each student reading a thousand pages. The reward must be obtainable by everyone in the project. It can be difficult to use external rewards if some students are left out, and special rules should be made. It can also be problematic to hand out rewards to individuals in a group context. It must be considered whether the reward is suitable for everyone in the group. What might the consequences be for the group, if not everyone gets a reward? 

Indicators for the students’ motivation

  • Does the project pave the way for individual feelings of mastery?
  • Does the project emphasise individual reading experiences?
  • Does the project open for acknowledgement / praise of the students?
  • Is an external reward part of the project? 

Inner motivation
When the goal has been reached, when time is up or the required number of pages has been read, the end of the reward has to be clearly marked. The students should feel that the reward was nice, but not necessary in order to keep reading. External rewards are rarely enough to keep up motivation long-term. It is the inner motivation which affects further reading. That’s why, in addition to the external reward, we have to work from the individual student’s basic need for mastering.

If the students themselves feel that they can read better, and that there is a reading development, that can also affect the motivation to read. Adults give attention to certain activities which should result in better readers. One result of these external expectations is that the students expect and need an external response as to whether or not they succeed at reading. The reading experience is thereby also affected by the extent to which the reader is acknowledged. To be considered a good reader can greatly affect the motivation to read.

This article has been taken from the booklet "The Pearl Hunt – chasing positive reading experiences ".