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Motivation is a key ingredient for reading proficiency

For decades, reading research has demonstrated that word recognition and comprehension are important ingredients to develop a strong reader. But what role does motivation play?

In their hallmark work on reading motivation, Wigfield and Guthrie (1997) proposed a distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to read. Intrinsic refers to the enjoyment that may be described as getting lost in a good book coupled with interest in the topic. Extrinsic refers to praise and competition. Research has found that intrinsic incentives are more highly correlated with reading frequency and comprehension.

Unfortunately, a decrease in intrinsic motivation can begin as early as first grade and continue to decline throughout the remainder of a child’s schooling. Amidst the pandemic, it is important to establish intrinsic motivation to read to promote frequency and comprehension. At Reading Is Fundamental, we recommend these tips to motivate your child:

1. Start them young

You can begin motivating your toddler by establishing a daily reading routine. The best books for toddlers have simple, bright pictures against a solid background. Look for books that incorporate alliteration, repetition, rhyme, and onomatopoeia.

2. Pay attention to their interests

Elementary-aged students are beginning to develop their own interests. Pay attention to your child’s developing interests and provide related books. This is a great time to look for series books that will get them hooked.

3. Make it social

Adolescent readers are more motivated when reading is a social experience. Help by setting up a book club for your adolescent reader. Allow your child to select a title their friends will be interested in reading, then create a meeting schedule. Keep it safe by having your book club meet outside at a park or online.


Written by Erin Bailey Director, Literacy & Content. Reading Is Fundamental

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