Igniting and inspiring middle school readers in the classroom: A comparative study of the effects of booktalks and book displays on middle school readers
Jones, Mapuana Helen
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Reading motivation and attitude are salient issues for adolescent students because their enjoyment of reading declines from early elementary years to middle school. Literacy authorities believe motivation and attitude toward reading influences an individual to become a proficient reader, and plays a pivotal role in literacy development. Booktalks and book displays can be powerful motivators for reading because they help match struggling and avid readers with the right books. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between booktalks and book displays utilized in a middle school classroom setting and readers’ reading behavior and motivation. The participants included 346 sixth-grade students from multiple classrooms in two South Texas Title I and one non-Title I schools, eight teachers, and three librarians. The researcher utilized four instruments in the quasi-experimental study: The Survey of Adolescent Reading Attitudes (SARA) (McKenna, Conradi, Lawrence, Jang, and Meyer’s, 2012), the Insignia Library System (ILS), student Reading Logs, and students’ Spring 2013 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) Reading scores. At the end of the study a semi-structured approach was utilized to interview the booktalk teachers. There were no statistically significant findings supporting the idea that either displaying the books or booktalks positively affect students’ reading attitude. However, there were statistically significant differences among STAAR Reading Level I (unsatisfactory) students, who read more books than Level II (proficient) and III (advanced) students readers. And the effectiveness of teacher booktalks was supported by semi-structured interviews with booktalk teacher participants. Teacher participants reported that students enjoyed the booktalks and they helped them find a good book to read. Teachers found the booktalks to be a useful tool for impacting struggling and proficient readers’ attitudes, and they increased their students’ reading. Previous booktalk studies, as well as librarian and teacher anecdotes support booktalk presentations as motivators for reading. However, researchers recommended that it takes years to form students’ reading attitudes. In order to show a significant difference in students’ reading attitudes, more time is required. Because of the reported successes of teacher booktalk presentations in the literature review and studies, these contradictory results should be examined in a future study.