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[Xmca-l] Re: A Question about Reading and Motivation

Thank you Michael! It is always such a wonderful thing when someone reveals to you what was before your eyes but you didn't see! I had to put down a novel to read your message. I think I take "the world" to be inclusive of imaginative world evoked by a text, and suddenly, yes, I can see that youngsters generally read lots of fiction and if they enjoy it, that is a royal road to becoming a reader - even though, in a sense, the printed words disappear under their gaze as they evoke that imaginary world. I also think the social motivations are broadly covered by my initial very 'utilitarian' view of the object of reading. But what you describe as "the intellectual pleasure of figuring something out," which I guess is one of the things that used to motivate me at school with maths, and that is something else! Thank you. The world is always richer than what one at first thought, isn't it?
*Andy Blunden*


A colleague and I just completed a study of the nature and variety of pleasure adolescents take from their out-of-school reading that draws on Dewey’s delineation of four kinds of educative interest in /Interest and Effort in Education. /One kind of pleasure we identified is what we call work pleasure in which readers use a text as a tool to accomplish some other end. That’s the kind of pleasure that Andy seems to be talking about when he writes about someone’s struggling to read a philosophical text to get something out of it that could then be usefully employed in some other context. But there are other kinds of pleasure. As Dewey explains “There are cases where action is direct and immediate. It puts itself forth with no thought of anything beyond. It satisfies in and of itself. The end is the present activity, and so there is no gap in the mind between means and end. All play is of this immediate character.” Readers experience the pleasure of play when they read narratives to immerse themselves in a story world. What matters to them is the pleasure they get from living through the experiences of characters in the here and now not what they can accomplish as a consequence of their reading at some future time. Another kind of pleasure is intellectual pleasure. Dewey explains that “instead of thinking things out and discovering them for the sake of the successful achievement of an activity (work pleasure),” we may institute an activity for the intellectual pleasure of figuring something out. An example would be reading to unravel the complexities of poem as an end in itself. Finally there are social pleasures in reading. People read to affiliate with others. That seems to me to be a kind of pleasure people on this listserv take. Or people read to mark their place in the world. They do a kind of identity work by using their reading to assert their difference from others. One of the informants in our study avoided reading the books that were most popular among her friends and instead read what she called dark fiction. That reading was an important part of how she understood herself. As she said “I’m weird in the way that [I don't have] inhibitions like most people. I can read dark fiction and not be disturbed by it.” I’d argue that teachers are most likely to foster motivation to read by creating contexts in which students can experience all four kinds of pleasure.

On Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 4:43 AM, rjsp2 <r.j.s.parsons@open.ac.uk <mailto:r.j.s.parsons@open.ac.uk>> wrote:

    The first thing I thought on reading "assistance is given to kids to

    read in order to find out something they want to know about the world"
    was "This is basic Freire".  Adult literacy had the same problem of
    meaningless texts till Freire came along and started teaching them
    things that mattered to them. It also made me reflect on the idea of
    motive, whihc has for a long time been a question I have been
    to examine "when I have time".  When I met the activity triangle,
    one of
    the most obvious issues about it was that it contains no separate
    for motive. After a while that seemed logical because the motive
    was in
    the object, and maybe one of our difficulties is that we separate
    out from object in order to understand it better, and then forget
    to put
    it back in again.

    Children are just like people, they do need a reason to do things.
    always been puzzled by the idea of andragogy, the suggestion that
    learn differently from children. Proponents usually list several
    which usually make no sense to me. One of the reasons usually given is
    that adults need to know why they are doing something, the unspoken
    contrast being presumably that children happily do what they're told.
    The kind of research you refer to here, Andy, suggests that
    children do
    need to know why they are doing something, but lack the power to
    say so.
    Hence, I think, a lot of the problems evident in our UK schooling
    (lots of great schools, in my opinion, dreadful educational policies
    dictate that children are machined through exams in order to maintain
    the school's place in the league table. So there is a reason why the
    children do what they do, it is just not relevant to the child.)


    On 28/08/2013 08:27, Andy Blunden wrote:

        Re: Peg Griffin -
        and Peg and Mike et al: http://lchc.ucsd.edu/People/NEWTECHN.pdf

        The first article sets up a scenario in 5thD where kids
        "sneak" a look
        at piece of writing in order to find an answer to a current
        question. As opposed to telling the kids to read a text and
        then (for
        example) testing them on it.
        The second talks about "reading for meaning" where assistance
        is given
        to kids to read in order to find out something they want to
        know about
        the world. As opposed to decoding "Jack and Jill" stories
        nothing of interest to them at all (and actually humiliating).

        I am trying to get my head around the issue of the motivation
        the teachers are trying to engender in the child which facilitates
        learning to read.

        Following A N Leontyev, Peg talks about the "merely
        understood" motive
        for the child "to be a productive, informed, literate citizen"
        is what the education system is supposed to be doing. Peg says
        motive was "in the social interactions and ready to replace the
        'really effective' motives that got the kid to come to/put up
        with our
        reading group." ... *in the social interactions*!

        Generally speaking I think there is no doubt that the distinction
        between "really effective" and "merely understood" motives is
        and that in general children who have difficulty in reading,
        read only
        for "effective" but "external" motives which do not succeed in
        learning to read effectively. Further, the task of the teacher
        may be
        or may be supposed to be to get the child to learn to read so
        as "to
        be a productive, informed, literate citizen." This objective is
        somewhere in the complex of motives underlying a teacher's
        certainly in 5thD, but I suspect often a "merely understood"
        for many teachers, alongside earning a wage for their own family,
        having a quiet day and the kids getting good test scores, etc.

        But I question whether it is *ever* the child's motive "to be a
        productive, informed, literate citizen." This may be an "internal
        reward" for learning to read, but not for learning to read any
        particular text or even a particular type of text.

        Would this explanation make sense: Learning to read is like
        It does not generally arise through being the motivation of the
        activity which produces it. People learn to read as a byproduct of
        struggling to get something they want out of particular texts. And
        this applies to adults as much as children. I think people can
        learn to read philosophy if they are struggling to get
        something out
        of a book on philosophy (other than pass the exam or acquire
        an air of
        erudition). In Peg's email message we learn that the kids
        jumped on
        the newspaper article to extract information they wanted in
        (what they
        took to be) /another/ task. In the QAR story, adults mediate kids'
        relation to a text which is in turn mediating their real and
        meaningful relation to the world. (I think if a kid is
        strongly enough
        motivated to pass a reading test, and assisted, they will usually
        manage to learn to read, but it is for those for whom this doesn't
        work that the issue arises, isn't it?)

        But in general I think it is neither necessary nor likely that
        a child
        has their eye on becoming a literate citizen when they
        struggle with a
        text and learn to read in the process. Isn't it always more
        motives? The "internal" reward in reading a particular text is the
        particular content of that text, not actually anything to do with
        books, or texts, or reading or citizenship.

        I know there are dozens of experts in literacy education out
        there, so
        please help me.


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