Reading attitudes of middle school students: Results of a U.S. survey

McKenna, M. C., Conradi, K., Lawrence, C., Jang, B. G., & Meyer, J. P.

This study was inspired by two trends: first, as students move from elementary to middle school, their motivation for reading is largely on the decline.  Second, how students are reading has changed a great deal in the last decade, with a shift away from a  strictly traditional print setting and into more hybrid and digital settings.   In this study, we investigate middle school students’ attitudes towards reading in both traditional print and digital settings and for both academic and recreational purposes.

In order to examine the current state of reading attitudes among middle school students in the United States, a survey was developed and administered to 4,491 students in 23 states plus the District of Columbia. The instrument comprised four subscales measuring attitudes toward: recreational reading in print settings, recreational reading in digital settings, academic reading in print settings, and academic reading in digital settings. Factor analysis confirmed the factor structure corresponding to the four sub scales, and reliability coefficients for these subscales ranged from .78 to .86. Correlations among the subscales varied considerably, due largely to the recreational digital subscale. Analyses of variance subsequently confirmed a pattern for the recreational digital subscale that differed from that of the others. For academic digital, recreational print, and academic print, the attitudes of females were more positive than those of males; however, for attitudes toward recreational reading in digital settings, the pattern was reversed. In addition, results for three of the subscales showed a gradual worsening of attitudes from 6th to 8th grade. The exception was academic print, for which attitudes did not differ by grade. No interactions were observed between grade and gender for any of the subscales. Results are discussed in the context of attitude theory and the rapid evolution of digital literacy and its social uses by adolescents.

McKenna, M. C., Conradi, K., Lawrence, C., Jang, B. G., & Meyer, J. P. (in press). Reading attitudes of middle school students: Results of a U.S. survey. Reading Research Quarterly.