Many researchers have investigated the contributing factors to student success in reading, and various strategies have been suggested (Ledger & Merga, 2018; Merga & Mat Roni, 2018; Whitehurst, & Lonigan, 2001). Strategies at home that help students achieve reading skills before entering school (Whitehurst, & Lonigan, 2001) and a positive attitude toward reading (Mohd-Asraf & Abdullah, 2016) are two key contributing factors to reading success. Several studies have been conducted to demonstrate how these two factors can make a difference for reading acquisition (Mohd-Asraf & Abdullah, 2016; Whitehurst, & Lonigan, 2001).
Students’ attitudes toward reading have been shown to impact reading success (Mohd-Asraf & Abdullah, 2016; Yildiz & Kiziltas, 2018). Alexander and Filler (1976) defined reading attitude as “a system of feelings related to reading which causes the learner to approach or avoid a reading situation” (p. 1). Attitudes can be formed by physiological factors, personality, associated groups, and socialization (Yildiz & Kiziltas, 2018). These attitudes can affect many qualities of life, including reading achievement (Yildiz & Kiziltas, 2018). Mohd-Asraf and Abdullah (2016) found from their study that girls scored higher than boys in recreational reading attitude, meaning that girls were more likely to read for recreation. The same was found for academic reading (Mohd-Asraf & Abdullah, 2016). These findings coincide with prior research which demonstrated that girls who think more positively about reading also tend to outperform the boys on national assessments (Mohd-Asraf & Abdullah, 2016).
According to Whitehurst and Lonigan (2001), students who read well read more and accumulate more knowledge as a result. An avid reader may read 10 million words in a year, as opposed to an unmotivated reader who may read only 100,000 (Whitehurst & Lonigan, 2001). This difference can cause a vast difference in vocabulary and content knowledge between avid readers and unmotivated readers, which leads to less comprehension and lower grades, contributing to a negative attitude towards reading for the unmotivated reader (Whitehurst & Lonigan, 2001).
An analysis by the Western Australian Study in Children’s Book Reading (WASCBR) found reading attitude to be the strongest forecaster of reading frequency, ranking above age, gender, encouragement, and peer support (Merga & Mat Roni, 2018). Gambrell (2015) supports this by stating that skill alone is not adequate to assure that students will be proficient readers; they must develop a habit of reading, which is easier to develop for those who enjoy reading and have a positive attitude toward the subject. In conclusion, a student’s attitude–positive or negative–toward reading impacts his or her reading success.
A plethora of research is available to demonstrate the benefit of reading aloud (Ledger & Merga, 2018; Meyer, Wardrop, Stahl, & Linn, 1994). Studies have found that reading to children frequently at a young age has a direct effect on a child’s achievement, regardless of home environment or background (Ledger & Merga, 2018). A report by Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, and Wilkinson (1985) states that “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children” (p. 23). Children who are read to aloud more frequently in preschool years enter school with a greater vocabulary, more advanced comprehension skills, more reading achievement, and other cognitive benefits (Ledger & Merga, 2018).
When an adult reads aloud to a child, the child is able to understand that there is meaning behind the printed words (Smith, 1997). In order for children to become familiar with written language, they must be read to until they are able to read for themselves (Smith, 1997). According to Smith (1997), “A major advantage for children who have the opportunity to listen to stories is that they become used to the language employed in them and don’t find stories strange when they begin to read for themselves” (p. 109). Books are not written in the same manner in which one speaks on a daily basis. It would be unrealistic to expect a child to understand the unfamiliar style of reading unless it has first been introduced to them through reading aloud (Smith, 1997). Thus, it is important for students to be read to aloud so they gain an understanding that there is meaning behind letters and words and to become familiar with the language of books.
Shared reading is when parents read books with their children and engage in dialogue in the process (Whitehurst & Lonigan, 2001). Shared reading is different from reading aloud in that the parent and child engage in dialogue. According to Whitehurst and Lonigan (2001), in shared reading “a child’s responses to the book are encouraged through praise and repetition, and more sophisticated responses are encouraged by expansions of the child’s utterances and by more challenging questions from the adult reading partner” (p. 23). Shared reading produces a larger impact on a child’s oral language skills as opposed to standard book reading (Whitehurst & Lonigan, 2001). This strategy, along with the print exposure it produces, fosters vocabulary development and has a great effect on future developmental reading skills (Whitehurst & Lonigan, 2001). Shared reading allows for students to engage in positive reading experiences. When this is coupled with a loved or respected person in the child’s life, the shared enjoyment can create a lifelong reader (Merga & Mat Roni, 2018).
The Keys to Reading Success