Slide 1: This webinar considers the linkages between reading experiences, attitudes toward reading, and positive reading outcomes. Our attitudes toward reading are important because they influence how much we read, how often we read, and ultimately how well we read.
Slide 2: My name is Aimee Howley, Professor Emerita at Ohio University. Over my many years in education, both in K-12 schools and in universities, I have encountered quite a number of people who do not like to read. They have had negative experiences with reading, and avoid it when they can. My experiences with reading have mostly been positive, although in elementary school I did have reading difficulties. Now, if you observe me at work, you’d see that I spend a lot of my time reading. And, at home, because my eyes get tired, I listen to recorded books.
Slide 3: Some people get pleasure from reading, but other’s don’t. Because reading is so important to contemporary life, however, and because it can be a source of great enjoyment, it’s important to help people take pleasure from reading and learn to do it well.
Slide 4: Think about your own experiences with reading: Do you recall many enjoyable hours getting caught up in the story being told in a novel? Do you like to gather new information by reading books or articles or the material on websites?
Slide 5: Or do you dread the idea of having to read something? Do you try to avoid reading even when reading documents or looking for information on websites is a requirement of your job? When you think about leisure time do you routinely choose a sports activity or watching television rather than sitting down to read?
Slide 6: Where do our attitudes toward reading come from? In large part, our prior reading experiences determine whether we will treat reading as an enjoyable experience that is readily accessible to us or as a chore that is both difficult and frustrating.
Slide 7: Our attitudes toward reading not only influence what we choose to do and how well we accomplish certain tasks that involve reading, they also influence other people. For example, we tend to communicate our attitudes toward reading to our own children whether we try to or not. What we say and, more importantly, how we act communicates our interest in reading and our comfort level in performing activities that involve reading. For example, if we speak enthusiastically about books or magazine articles, our children will see that we take pleasure in reading. If we frequently consult newspapers, websites, or library books to find the information we need, our children will conclude that reading is useful. If we avoid looking at written material that comes in the mail or always choose to do something other than read, we may be giving the opposite message to our children. Our actions might clue our children into the fact that we see reading as an unpleasant chore, not an enjoyable pastime or practical skill.
Slide 8: In a similar way, what we say about reading and especially how we behave when asked to read communicate our attitude toward reading to the students with whom we work. Although we are communicating unconsciously, we are still sharing our attitudes through our actions, words, and body language.
Slide 9: What do people mean when they use the word “attitude?” Stop and think for a minute about what that word means to you.
Slide 10: Both from a commonsense point of view and from a more scholarly point of view, an attitude is a way of looking at something based on how that something makes you feel. Attitudes can be viewed as positive or negative, supportive or unsupportive, or warm or cold. But whether we call our attitude “positive,” “supportive,” or “warm,” we typically mean that we feel good about the activity, person, or circumstance about which we hold the positive (supportive or warm) attitude.
Slide 11: Of course, we sometimes hear the expression, “he has a negative attitude” or the expression, “she has a positive attitude.” These expressions relate to a person’s overall disposition toward life in general. Most of us, however, feel positively disposed toward some things or activities and negatively disposed toward others. We hold a combination of different attitudes. Someone might have a positive attitude toward exercise, but a negative attitude toward housework.
Slide 12: We often experience our attitudes in ways that are more complex than simply feeling positively or negatively disposed toward something or some activity. Some adjectives describing different attitudes are: callous, critical, disdainful, jovial, gloomy, mocking, sincere, and reverent. When we talk about attitudes toward academic activities, like reading or mathematics, though, we are more concerned with the general trend—either positive or negative—than with the subtle differences in nuance.
Slide 13: Most people try to get more of the things or activities about which they hold positive attitudes and to avoid the things or activities about which they hold negative attitudes. If you have a positive attitude toward exercise, for instance, you are likely to do more exercising and to become better and better at it over time. If you have a negative attitude toward meeting new people, you are likely to avoid parties.
Slide 14: Where do your attitudes toward reading come from? In part, they come from your childhood experiences with reading.
Slide 15: Through their words and actions, your parents and other adults who were close to you probably made you aware of their attitudes toward reading. If your parents liked to read and had sufficient leisure time to do some reading, you probably observed them sitting down with a book, magazine, or newspaper—perhaps on a daily basis or, at least, fairly frequently.
Slide 16: And if your parents liked to read, they probably read books aloud to you. In some families reading aloud is the last activity during the day, and children look forward to their “bedtime story.” In other families oral reading of passages from the Bible is part of the daily routine.
Slide 17: When families view reading in a positive way, they encourage children to keep at least a small number of books of their own or to borrow books from the library. If they have access to the Internet, they may show their children how to find information from websites that provide information, games, or stories—such as Wikipedia and PBS Kids.
Slide 18: Although your early home experiences with written materials probably shaped your initial attitude toward reading, they were not the only important source of influence. Once you started school, your classroom reading instruction, visits to the school library, experiences with homework, and other activities involving reading all had an impact. If these activities were pleasant and led to meaningful accomplishments, they probably helped you develop or maintain a positive attitude toward reading.
Slide 19: Your teachers may also have taken steps to ensure that you would enjoy reading and find it useful. They may have given you interesting books to read, encouraged your progress, and made you feel good about reading. They may have helped.