AN EXAMINATION OF THE EFFECT OF READING INTEREST
AND SELECTED DEMOGRAPHIC FACTORS ON READING PERFORMANCE
AMONG STUDENTS IN THE MIDDLE GRADES
K. R. Childs, Ed.D.
Texas Southern University, 2013
Much time is spent instilling in young students the importance of reading, and the impact reading has on their being considered “smart.” The activities presented to students in primary (Pre –Kindergarten/Kindergarten) classrooms through third grade are engaging and cooperative, and they provide a sense of accomplishment for students who meet learning goals. However, by third grade, and thereafter, students begin to lose their sense of pride and interest in reading; therefore, their performance in reading (and school in general) begins to plummet and a gap continues to widen between reading interest and achievement going into the middle grades. In the late 1960’s, Jeanne Chall labeled this decline in achievement and reading interest as “the fourth-grade slump”.
This performance “slump” has not gone away, and, in fact, continues to impact middle grades’ students. “Approximately 46 percent of fourth-graders in the nation read for fun on their own time almost every day in 2011… [compared to] “approximately 19 percent of eighth-graders” (U.S. Department of Education, 2011) . Students’ loss of interest in reading causes a “disconnect” and stunts growth and progress in the classroom. Researchers in the past have linked extracurricular reading to reading achievement and performance. In a 1992 study, Watkins and Edwards reported that typically intermediate level readers were more likely to do extracurricular reading at higher rates and to show higher achievement, in contrast to poor readers who read less frequently and achieved at lower levels. This study investigates the difference between students’ interest in reading and their achievement, based on gender, ethnicity, program placement, and language proficiency in the middle grades—a crucial turning point in the education of students.
In many cases, the performance of the middle graders becomes a predictor of success at the secondary and post secondary levels. The examination of the cultural and social issues in this study, as well as analysis of problems in the middle grades’ curriculum will provide feedback for future changes in middle grades education that will impact students, educators, textbook companies, curriculum writers, and educational policy makers.
For the full dissertation/study: Dr. Childs’ Dissertation