Indiana Reading Journal Volume 44 Issue 1 - Page 26

The growth of recent research in the area of reading motivation is evident in the contents of the Handbook of Reading Research (Guthrie & Greaney, 1991; Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000; Rueda, 2011) and through the work by Gaffney and Anderson (2000), who calculated the percentage of articles containing words about motivation or interest in reading. The number of articles in Reading Research Quarterly was outnumbered by the articles in The Reading Teacher until 1996, when the percentage of articles more than doubled in less than a decade. Educational journals for practitioners included more articles containing words about reading motivation or reading interest than did the more scholarly editions. The September 2014 edition of Educational Leadership, titled Motivation Matters, emphasized on the topic of motivation and how it affects the educational setting. These results imply that while practicing educators recognize the need for reading motivation in the practice of teaching, reading researchers have given less attention to the topic for reading research.


The primary purpose of this study was to explore reading motivation from the perspective of five ethnically diverse fifth grade boys. The secondary focus of the study was to examine how the boys’ perceptions of reading differ in academic and leisure settings. Since the purpose of inquiry was to understand the phenomenon of reading perceptions of young boys, the nature of qualitative methodology was most fitting for this study. Although there is an increase in literature pertaining to reading motivation, the research is limited when specific to a subgroup such as gender, race, or socioeconomic status (Entwisle, Alexander, & Olson, 2007; Guthrie, Coddington, Wigfield, 2011). The limited findings state simply that a particular ethnic group, such as African American students, values reading to a lesser degree than Caucasian students do; however, the studies neglect to emphasize what does motivate readers.

Even fewer are the studies of qualitative design, most of which involve adolescents (Dunbar, 1999; Hamston & Love, 2005; Smith & Wilhelm, 2002; Tatum, 2005). Qualitative studies including elementary-aged boys are rare (Blair & Sanford, 2004; Farris, et al., 2009), especially when another factor, such as race, is included (Kirkland & Jackson, 2009). This study addresses the much-needed areas of qualitative research including reading motivation and elementary-aged male readers.

Research Design

According to Merriam (2002), the nature of qualitative research is “the idea that meaning is socially constructed by individuals in interaction with their world” (p. 3). By using an interpretive qualitative theoretical stance, the phenomenological design of this study meets each of the four interpretive qualitative characteristics outlined by Merriam. Those characteristics include 1) making meaning of people and their experiences, 2) acknowledging “the researcher is the primary instrument for data collection and data analysis,” 3) processing understanding through an inductive rather than deductive manner, and 4) creating a “richly descriptive” product of research (p. 4-6).

The overarching theoretical stance of interpretive qualitative inquiry, as selected for this study, follows a similar process, regardless of the field or discipline. Most importantly, the research begins with the desire to understand a specific phenomenon. The question was formulated and a design selected, both with philosophical connection to the study. Phenomenological design focuses “on the essence or structure of an experience” (Merriam, 2002, p. 7), in this case, the essence of motivation in the experience of reading from the perspective of young boys. The setting, participants, and instruments are the cohesive components selected to explore the phenomenon of inquiry.


This article addresses reading motivation and elementary-aged male readers, considering those who are failing to find success in reading. The researcher interviewed and observed five elementary-aged boys of minority background who attended public school, were eligible for lunch subsidies, and demonstrated a lack of reading motivation. Having no vested interest in the boys or the facility, the interviewer reduced the “values, biases, and understandings” (Creswell, 1998, p. 114) that might be present.