Motivational Attributes of Children and Teenagers Who Participate in Summer Reading Clubs

By Stephanie Levitt Shaulskiy, Doctoral Candidate in Educational Psychology, Department of Educational Studies, The Ohio State University; Janet L. Capps, Assistant Professor, School of Library and Information Management, Emporia State University; Laura M. Justice, Executive Director of The Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy and EHE Distinguished Professor, Teaching and Learning Administration, The Ohio State University; Lynley H. Anderman, Professor of Educational Psychology, ‘ Department of Educational Studies at The Ohio State University; and Columbus Metropolitan Library*

*Columbus Metropolitan Library is represented here as a Corporate Author. Numerous members of the Columbus Metropolitan Library system were involved in the conduct of this work, to include generating research aims, establishing and implementing research methods, and examining and interpreting research outcomes.

‘ Abstract

Library-based summer reading clubs are popular offerings across the country; however, very little is known about the children and teenagers who participate in them. This study examined demographic and motivational attributes of children and teenagers who participated in a summer reading club in a large midwestern city. The study also examined their perceptions about other possible extrinsic motivational reasons why they participated in the program (e.g., to get a prize). Results indicated that children and teenagers who participated in the summer reading club had high perceived competencies and value for reading across ages, and that the majority did not report participating to receive a prize (62.5%). Motivational attributes were also analyzed by gender and socioeconomic status (SES). Differences were noted for some dimensions of value for reading for gender, but no differences were noted for reading values or competencies for SES. The results of this study have implications for summer reading club design and the ways in which libraries attract students and motivate them to read.


Since their inception in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut in the late 1890s, public library summer reading clubs (SRCs) have grown to become a key program offered in over 98% of public libraries in the United States.1 These programs are perceived to be an important resource for young children, teenagers, and even adults. A central goal of SRCs is to motivate or encourage participants to engage in independent reading during the summer, to foster a love of reading, and to encourage them to become lifelong library users. With these benefits in mind, in 2010 the Council of the American Library Association drafted a resolution in support of ensuring access to summer reading programs for all children and teens.2

A recent investigation examined the characteristics of children and teenagers participating in the SRC affiliated with a large midwestern public library system.3 The SRC examined was that of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, which implements one of the largest summer reading programs available in public libraries in the United States. In 2010 and 2011, 58,500 and 68,000 children and teenagers participated, respectively. To put this into context in terms of the size of the city, Columbus is home to 788,577 people.4 Study findings suggested that participants have many different reasons for enrolling in this kind of program over the summer. For some, it might serve as an academic opportunity that could help students prevent the “summer slide,” which refers to the decline in reading over summer months.5 These students may see reading as particularly important for their future; thus, maintaining or improving their reading level through participation in a program like a summer reading club might be extremely important to them. Others might participate because their parent or school requires them to do so, or because they are enticed by incentives such as prizes or other giveaways. This paper, which forms a part of that larger study, will delve more deeply into examining children’s and teens’ motivations for participating in SRCs and consider implications for effective SRC program design.

Motivators and Summer Reading Clubs

Indeed, many SRCs today provide incentives for participants beyond print and non-print material access opportunities for independent reading. SRC programming activities may include themed read-aloud or story-time sessions, puppet shows, arts and crafts, and book talks. Interactive enrichment demonstrations developed to attract young readers and reluctant readers to participate in SRC programs are also common SRC program offerings; for example, a park ranger brings in local wildlife to introduce proper ways to handle wild animals, a nutritionist teaches healthy alternative cooking techniques, or a musician shares how to unleash the songwriter from within. Some librarians seek ways to motivate SRC participation by turning to resources shared through support consortiums or established professional organizations, such as the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). With public library members across all fifty states, the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) consortium provides an opportunity for libraries to work together to share resources and to reduce the cost of providing high-quality programs. CSLP membership benefits include access to reading advocacy or marketing materials, such as professionally designed SRC-themed posters and bookmarks.

Traditionally, public libraries use an honor-based reading log in which the participants self-report the number of books read or the time spent in reading. The time-point incentive awards are usually tied to age categories plus a participant’s tracking advancement in the reading log. Incentives frequently include food coupons (e.g., free ice-cream cones or pizza), passes to activities (e.g., bowling, movies, recreational or entertainment parks, sporting events, museums), free merchandise (e.g., books, backpacks, or T-shirts), and entry into a raffle for a grand prize (e.g., a bike, an iPod, Nintendo). For example, the Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) 2011 SRC incentives included coupons for food and local museums and institutions as well as a book bag and a chance to be entered into a raffle for larger prizes. However, the purchase of SRC participation incentives and/or reading log incentives is tied to donations and an individual library’s budgetary allocation. Contingent upon donations from local business, the particular incentives offered by summer reading programs may shift year to year even within a library system.

The incentives that libraries sometimes use to entice enrollment, participation, or completion in SRCs can be viewed as extrinsic motivators. Extrinsic motivators are external, tangible rewards provided for completion of a task, such as when a child receives an allowance upon cleaning his/her room.6 Completion of the task is motivated by the individual’s desire to receive the incentive or reward, rather than any internal factor related to the activity (e.g., feelings of pleasure induced by having a clean room).

There are other types of motivators that compel people to complete a task, referred to as intrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivators are internal to an individual, such as one’s personal interest in a task or the pleasure derived from completing it.7 For instance, a child might clean her room because it makes her feel organized or competent, or because she derives pleasure from this act. Although extrinsic rewards can be effective in shaping children’s behavior, a large body of research suggests that intrinsic motivation leads to more positive outcomes and greater engagement in the long term.8

In the literacy field in particular, researchers have examined children’s motivation to read with respect to both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. Study findings show that intrinsic motivation for reading leads to more long-term engagement in reading9 and more frequent reading behavior in and outside of school.10 Anthony J. Applegate and Mary D. Applegate highlight the fact that readers who are “engaged” or “ideal readers who are intrinsically motivated, and who read regularly and enthusiastically for a variety of their own purposes” also perform better academically.11

Some research has focused specifically on the use of incentives (a type of extrinsic motivator) on children’s/teenagers’ reading achievement in a variety of school and library reading-focused programs. Jeff McQuillan, in a review of such work, reports that no studies show “any clearly positive effect on reading comprehension, vocabulary, or reading habits that could be attributed solely to the use of rewards and incentives, and in one case the practice may have led to a decline.”12 McQuillan’s findings suggest that use of extrinsic motivators to entice children/teenagers to read can lead to less rather than more reading in the long term.

The current study examines the role of motivation with respect to why young people might enroll in SRCs. To guide our work, we drew on a more general theory of motivation, referred to as expectancy-value theory.

Expectancy-Value Theory of Motivation

The expectancy-value theory of motivation predicts that individuals’ motivation is related to their expectancies and their values toward a specific task.13 That is, when a person expects to do well on a task and values the task, he or she will be more likely to engage in that task. In educational settings, expectancy-value theory builds upon this framework by examining individuals’ expectancies and task value surrounding specific tasks.14 One’s expectancies are expectations for success in a specific task, typically based on individuals’ assessment of their own capabilities; this is similar to the notion of perceived competence (or how good one believes he or she is at something). Put simply, if an adolescent feels that she is a very good driver, she will expect to pass a driving test.

In contrast, task values concern perceptions of the value of a task, based on three dimensions. Attainment value, or importance, reflects one’s perceptions of the personal importance of doing well on a task. Interest value reflects the enjoyment that one gets from engaging in a specific task. This is very close to the idea of intrinsic motivation,15 in that individuals are likely to engage in tasks in which they enjoy. Finally, extrinsic utility value, or usefulness, reflects one’s perceptions regarding the usefulness of a task toward achieving a future goal. These aspects of motivation have been shown to predict different behavioral choices or outcomes, such as whether a child/teenager elects to enroll in an SRC and, upon enrollment, elects to complete the program in its entirety. In fact, some studies show that values predict enrollment in specific courses, whereas expectancies predict achievement-related outcomes.16

Specifically with regard to reading, Isabelle Archambault, Jacquelynne S. Eccles, and Mina N. Vida report that those who enjoy reading (or have an interest in reading) are more likely to perform better on reading tasks and aspire for careers that require reading skills.17 Age may also play a part in determining these outcomes, as the usefulness of a specific subject may be more important for older adolescents in terms of their intention to continue with the subject.18 Archambault and colleagues examined student reports of reading-related expectancy and value in grades 1 through 12. One major finding from this work was that most students (90%) experienced declines in their literacy motivation across ages.19 Clearly, students’ perceptions of competency and task value are all important for motivation to continue and do well in a specific task.

Taken together, the literature on motivation suggests that students who place a high value on reading will also engage in reading activities or spend time in places where they can have the chance to read. For example, children and teenagers who believe reading is important might spend more time in places where they feel like reading is important, such as libraries. If children and teenagers are interested in reading, they may also spend more time at libraries or being involved in library programs, such as SRCs. Children and teenagers who believe reading is important for a future career or education might also choose to engage in an SRC with the library, where they would have a chance to practice their reading skills. The age of the individual might matter as well; for older children in particular, the value of reading for future career may have a significant influence on whether an individual chooses to participate in an SRC.

Gender, Socioeconomic Status, and Motivation for Reading

Previous research has often found gender differences in motivation for reading, with females having higher levels of reading motivation as compared to males.20 Jon Shapiro and Patricia Whitney looked at avid and non-avid reading during leisure time. In this study, “avid” referred to students whose percentage of leisure time spent reading was at least one-half standard deviation above the sample mean, while “non-avid” referred to students who did not report leisure reading at all over a three-week period. Shapiro and Whitney found that avid-reading girls had higher scores for enjoyment of reading and lower scores on reading anxiety as compared to non-avid reader girls and non-avid- and avid-reading boys.21

Similarly, Lee Shumow, Jennifer A. Schmidt, and Hayal Kacker found that girls read more outside of class than boys.22 Interestingly, Applegate and Applegate found that self-efficacy (the belief in one’s ability to do a specific task) for reading was the same across genders, but values assigned to reading were lower for males than for females.23 In other words, whereas males and females may have similar feelings about their ability to read, we might expect girls to value reading more highly than boys.

Another important consideration when examining motivation for reading is the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and reading. Poverty status, in particular, has been associated with several educational achievement outcomes, including reading skill. Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Greg J. Duncan found that children living below the poverty line scored lower on standardized tests of reading achievement as compared to those from higher-income families.24

Similarly, Shumow et al., using parental education as a proxy for SES, reported that children’s SES was associated with time spent reading for leisure.25 Other research has shown that compared to students who had high motivation for reading (including high subjective task value and high perceptions of their ability for reading), students experiencing a motivation decline in reading over time were likely to be from low-SES backgrounds.26 The study authors explain that “disadvantaged families may be less well equipped to intervene and help children catch up in their reading competence,” and this may have consequences for the value that students place on reading.27 These studies demonstrate that literacy-related habits (e.g., going to the library to check out books or reading often) may be less prevalent in low-SES families, which may have implications for children’s and teenagers’ perceptions of their ability to read, and as well as their value for reading. Therefore, family SES may have an important relationship with motivation for reading.

Study Aims

The present study involves analyses of data collected from children and teenagers who elected to participate in an urban SRC during the summer of 2011. In a prior study, we examined general characteristics of these participants (and included a broader participant range; see Justice et al.); however, only limited attention was paid to exploring the motivational attributes of those participants. Thus, the aim of this paper is to (a) examine the motivational attributes of children and adolescents (ages 8—17 years) who participate in SRCs in an effort to understand why some children and teenagers elect to participate in such programs, and (b) examine the relations among participants’ background characteristics, perceived reading competence, their value for reading, and extrinsic motivational factors.



Participants in this study were children and teenagers between the ages of 8 and 17 years who enrolled in a library-based SRC in the summer of 2011. Typically, U.S. and Canadian public libraries define young adult as ages 12—18;28 however, the age range for this study was broadened to include younger children who would be able to read and respond to the survey without a proxy, such as a parent or caregiver. Participants were recruited from five of twenty-three branch locations of the CML system. This number represents just under one-fourth of all branch locations. These branches were purposefully selected to be representative of the broader library system, to include the flagship (the main branch), one suburban branch, one urban branch, and two mixed (suburban-urban) branches. In the selection process, each CML branch was coded as one of these kinds of branches (i.e., suburban, urban, or mixed). Then, within each subset of branch types, branches were rank-ordered in terms of the numbers of teenagers who participated in the summer reading program during the previous summer; the branch (or branches, in the case of the mixed subset) at the fiftieth percentile in terms of population served was selected to be representative of that type of library.

Children and teenagers represented in the present analyses self-selected into the SRC and registered in person at one of the five selected branches. Upon completion of program registration, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire designed to reveal more about those who elect to enroll in SRCs. Only those who agreed to complete this questionnaire are represented in this paper.

In total, 440 children and teenagers are represented in this study. Demographic characteristics of the sample are shown in table 1. In terms of age, the majority of participants were between the ages of 8 and 13 years (78%), with teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 years a minority of the sample (22%). There were more females (n = 276; 64%) than males (n = 155; 36%) in the sample. Participants were 47% White, 30% Black, 4% Hispanic/Latino, 3% Asian, 13% Multiracial, and about 3% Other Ethnicities (e.g., Native Hawaiian, Native American). Compared to the population of Columbus generally (61.5% White), participants in this study were somewhat more diverse.29 Children and teenagers represented a range of family socioeconomic levels, as measured by caregivers’ highest levels of educational attainment. In terms of the primary maternal caregiver (which was unreported for 17% of participants), educational attainment was as follows: 10% did not finish high school, 23% were high school graduates, 21% completed some college, 33% were college graduates, and 13% attended graduate school. In terms of the primary paternal caregiver (unreported for 25% of participants), 15% didn’t finish high school, 28% were high school graduates, 21% completed some college, 23% were college graduates, and 13% attended graduate school.

Table 1
Descriptives by age

Age group






































































General Procedures

As noted previously, children and teenagers between the ages of 8 and 17 years who enrolled in the SRC at five library branch locations were invited by teen volunteers to complete a questionnaire providing details about themselves. This procedure occurred over a two-week period of registration prior to the summer reading program. Those who agreed were provided a paper version of the questionnaire or were offered the opportunity to complete the questionnaire online. The majority of the questionnaires were completed on paper as there was a shortage of library computers. The questionnaire was designed primarily to reveal (a) general demographic characteristics (gender, race/ethnicity, SES as based on reported caregiver educational attainment), (b) self-reported reading competence, (c) how much children and teenagers value reading, and (d) extrinsic motivation.

Reading Competence. An individual’s self-reported reading competence represents the expectancy component of the expectancy-value model and refers to one’s expectations of success in a specific task. Expectancies have been shown to predict future grades and achievement.30 Children and teenagers responded to two questionnaire items selected from Jacquelynne S. Eccles and Allan Wigfield’s questionnaire and designed to examine their perceptions of their reading competence.31 The items asked the participants to rate themselves as readers currently (“How good are you at reading?”) and in terms of the near future (“Compared to other students, how well do you expect to do in reading next year?”), using a five-point scale (1 = Not at all good, 5 = Very good). For our purposes, a single reading competence score was created based on the mean of the two items.

Values for Reading. Values have been found to predict future enrollment in particular courses or programs.32 Children and teenagers responded to seven items that spanned the three dimensions of the task-value component of Eccles’s model: interest, importance, and usefulness.33 Items were drawn from prior survey research involving children and teenagers of similar ages to those studied here.34 A five-point scale was used for all items. Two items measured interest related to reading (e.g., “How much do you like reading?”); three items measured importance as related to reading (e.g., “I feel that, for me, being good at reading is [not useful at all, very important]”); and two items measured usefulness as related to reading (e.g., “How useful is reading to your life when not in school?”). Eccles and Wigfield’s factor analysis demonstrated the uniqueness of these three types of values.35 A single score was calculated for each of these three constructs–interest, importance, and usefulness–by creating an average score for the two or three items mapping onto a given construct.

Extrinsic Motivation. The questionnaire contained one item to consider extrinsic motivational factors that may relate to children’s and teenagers’ participation in SRCs. Specifically, participants were asked to indicate why they registered for the SRC and were provided a list of the following reasons: enrolling to get a prize, enrolling to practice reading, enrolling due to parental encouragement, enrolling due to school encouragement to sign up, and enrolling to fulfill a school requirement. The list of motivational factors was developed collaboratively between project researchers and public library personnel partners. Participants were asked to identify all that applied, and we calculated the percentage/number of participants who indicated that a given factor influenced their participation.


There are several limitations to this study that should be acknowledged. As with any self-report data, there may be unique characteristics of the participants that elected to complete this survey. This self-selection process is likely to introduce a bias into the results, such as overrepresentation of youths who place high value on reading. Therefore, the findings may not be generalizable to all children and teenagers who participated in the SRC through the Columbus Metropolitan Public Library, or to students who participate in SRC programs in general. An additional limitation is that these descriptive findings are not explanatory and should not be interpreted as having any causal relationships. Finally, youths were not included in the derivation of the list of motivational factors. As a result, some reasons for which they might have chosen to enroll in the SRC–such as for fun or to be able to participate in library programs–were not investigated.

Despite the limitations associated with this study, these findings expand the literature of SRC demographic and motivational attributes of children and teenagers and have implications for improved public library services and program development.


Motivational Attributes of SRC Participants

The data regarding motivational attributes of participants was examined descriptively (see table 2), focusing specifically on participants’ responses to questionnaire items assessing their perceptions of interest, importance, and usefulness of reading. The mean score for interest (the average of two interest items) was 4.21 (SD = 0.85), well above the midpoint of the scale. For importance, the same trend was apparent, with participants providing a mean score of 4.53 (SD = 0.63). Participants also had a mean score well above the midpoint of the scale for the importance of reading. For usefulness, participants provided a mean score of 4.49 (SD = 0.73) to these items (the average of two interest items), which indicates that participants viewed reading as quite useful.

Table 2
Descriptive statistics for measures of values for reading and perceived reading competence

Variable M SD Range
Reading Competence 4.19 .82 1—5
Interest 4.21 .85 1.5—5
Importance 4.53 .63 1—5
Usefulness 4.49 .73 1—5

Note: These items were based on a Likert scale of 1—5 with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest values for reading and perceived reading competence.

For all these indices, the distribution of scores was negatively skewed (see figure 1). For interest, the modal response was 5, with very few participants selecting a score below a 3. In fact, 74.5% reported a score of 4 or greater. For importance, the distribution of scores was similarly negatively skewed (see figure 2). The modal response was 5, with very few participants selecting a score below a 3, and 87% reporting a 4 or greater. The same was true for usefulness, with the distribution of scores also negatively skewed (see figure 3). The modal response was 5, with very few participants selecting a score below a 3, and 86% reporting a 4 or greater. These data show that the participants, as a group, reported high perceptions of the value of reading overall.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 3

We examined these data regarding values for reading as a function of participants’ age, as shown in table 3. These data show that, in general, eight-, nine-, and ten-year-olds reported very high levels of interest, importance, and usefulness ratings for reading. However, these scores generally seemed to decline from ages eleven to sixteen years. To explore this trend, we calculated correlations of grade level with values in terms of interest, importance, and usefulness. Correlation coefficients showed a negative relation between grade and two of the three value variables: interest, r (434) = −2.19, p < .001, and importance, r (434) = −.157, p < .001. Grade and usefulness were not significantly related, r (434) = −.056. For exploratory purposes, we compared ratings of interest, importance, and usefulness for primary-grade pupils (grades 1—6) and middle- and high-school pupils (grades 7—12). As suggested based on the correlational data, the older pupils reported significantly lower ratings for the interest and importance items, F (1,439) = 29.82 and 13.77, respectively (p < .001); there was a trend for differences between the older and younger pupils for usefulness, as well, F (1,439) = 3.53, p = .06.

Table 3
Motivational values by age

Age group n Interest Importance Usefulness
(M, SD) (M, SD) (M, SD)
8-year-olds 48 4.68 (.52) 4.67 (.57) 4.64 (.54)
9-year-olds 65 4.53 (.61) 4.68 (.50) 4.65 (.64)
10-year-olds 57 4.28 (.95) 4.78 (.38) 4.61 (.63)
11-year-olds 64 4.20 (.92) 4.39 (.75) 4.34 (.91)
12-year-olds 58 3.95 (.81) 4.39 (.66) 4.33 (.81)
13-year-olds 46 3.69 (.84) 4.42 (.64) 4.30 (.85)
14-year-olds 36 4.18 (.70) 4.44 (.80) 4.50 (.70)
15-year-olds 25 4.18 (.96) 4.45 (.55) 4.52 (.59)
16-year-olds17-year-olds 1322 3.77 (1.03)4.34 (.97) 4.27 (.78)4.52 (.72) 4.12 (.68)4.80 (.52)

With respect to extrinsic factors related to summer reading club participation, table 4 provides the percentage of participants indicating specific reasons for participating in the club. As can be seen, the majority of participants (63.2%) indicated that they participated to practice reading; far fewer participants participated for the other possible reasons provided, with the lowest percentage associated with club participation being a school requirement (8.2%). These data regarding stated purposes for participation, with the majority enrolling for reading practice and not extrinsic rewards, converge with findings showing the high level of intrinsic motivation reported by the participants.

Table 4

Percent of students who selected reasons for participating in SRC

Reason for participating Yes (%) No (%)
Get Prize 37.5 62.5
Practice Reading 63.2 36.2
Parent Encouraged 37.5 62.5
School Encouraged 18.2 81.8
School Requirement ‘  8.2 91.8

‘ Interrelations among Variables

A second aim of this study was to look at potential relations among participant background characteristics, reading competence, and value motivational attributes. Table 5 provides a correlation matrix with the relevant variables, with the exception of gender (for which alternative analyses were used given that the data were coded dichotomously). These data show there to be significant and moderately strong relations among the three value motivation variables (interest, importance, usefulness), as would be expected. These data also show there to be moderately significant relations between perceived reading competence and each of the values for reading, namely interest, r = .46, p < .001, importance, r = .37, p < .001, and usefulness, r = .26, p < .001. These findings suggest that children and teenagers who see themselves as better readers also tend to see reading as interesting, having importance, and being useful. Interestingly, note that there was no significant correlation among the motivational attributes and children’s/teenagers’ SES, based on maternal education.

Table 5

Correlations among key study variables






1. Interest




‘  0.06

2. Importance




3. Usefulness



4. Competence

‘ ‘ 0.07

5. SES

**Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
Note: SES is captured based on maternal education.

To examine the association among perceived task values and gender, an analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted. Test results showed that girls provided higher scores than boys for interest, F (1,430) = 6.28, p < .05 (for girls, M = 4.30, SD = .82; for boys, M = 4.08, SD = .89), importance, F (1,430) = 12.24, p < .001 (for girls, M = 4.62, SD = .56; for boys, M = 4.40, SD = .72), and usefulness, F (1,430) = 17.25, p < .001 (for girls, M = 4.60, SD = .57; for boys, M = 4.31, SD = .89). Cohen’s effect size values were d = .26 for interest, .41 for importance, and .49 for usefulness, consistent with small- to medium-size effects.


This study examined the motivations of children and teenagers (ages 8—17 years) who participate in summer reading clubs to understand why they choose to participate. We looked at potential relationships between perceived reading competence, extrinsic motivational attributes, and how much children and teenagers value reading. Additionally, this study examined relations among students’ SES, gender, age, and perceived reading competence; the degree to which children and teenagers value reading; and extrinsic motivational factors for reading.

First, participants in this SRC reported extremely high value for reading, in terms of their interest, perceived importance of reading, and the usefulness of reading. For all of these characteristics, most students responded very positively (4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is low endorsement). Interestingly, the majority of participants said they participated in the SRC to practice reading, while far fewer participated for other reasons, including only 37.5% saying they participated to get a prize. Perhaps students who participate in SRCs may be more intrinsically motivated to read, which has positive implications for future reading and performance.36 While libraries invest resources to provide incentives for those who attend SRCs, it seems clear that most of the children and teenagers who completed the survey do not choose to participate in these kinds of programs simply to gain external rewards such as prizes or giveaways.

Second, as previous studies suggest,37 there were some gender differences between certain perceived values for reading between boys and girls. More specifically, girls reported believing that reading was more important, interesting, and useful than boys. As reported in previous research,38 there were no differences between genders in terms of perceived competence for reading.

Third, in terms of SES, while previous research suggests that children and teenagers from lower-SES families may have lower motivation for reading than their peers,39 this study showed no significant relationship between maternal education and any student perception of reading competency or value. Thus, it seems clear that although there is a wide SES status range in terms of those who participate in SRCs, SES does not have a significant relationship with any motivational attributes looked at in this study.


The findings of this study add to a body of work related to motivation for reading, such as gender differences for reading motivation40 and the pattern of lower motivation for reading as students increase in age.41 However, this study’s specific focus on SRCs and libraries has important practical implications for libraries across the country. Understanding motivation is particularly important for libraries as they consider different areas for allocating resources, such as hiring more staff or providing more expensive incentives in support of SRC reading log achievements. In order to address lower levels of reading motivation in classrooms, Linda B. Gambrell gives several suggestions for increasing student motivation.42 These suggestions include creating opportunities for more discussion and conversation about texts that students read, making reading more relevant to students’ daily lives, giving students more choices about the content that they read, and providing incentives that foster value for reading.43 While these suggestions are discussed in the context of classrooms, they would also be helpful for programs like SRCs.

Related to the idea of encouraging discussion about books, SRC program designers may want to consider expanding opportunities that foster discussion and social interactions attached to the message that reading is valued and important, such as bringing in authors to discuss popular books with children and teenagers or forming some sort of book club.

In addition to encouraging book-centered conversations, librarians can support intrinsic motivation by helping children and teenagers find books that are related to their personal interests. While support may be in a form of making available recommended book lists, such as YALSA’s Best of the Best, librarians are encouraged to strengthen readers’ advisory services that allow young patrons to be active participants in choosing their reading materials. Direct readers’ advisory services are informal short interviews between a patron and a librarian who is generally specialized in literature resources. Based on the patron’s reading interest and other interview responses, the librarian will guide the reader to some next-recommended reading materials.44 Practicing reader’ advisory techniques with young patrons provides a positive reading selection model that encourages the development of increased intrinsic motivation behavior and encourages discussion about reading materials. New digital readers’ advisory tools are finding a voice to expand recommendations even outside the librarian’s experience, and librarians are encouraged to share these tools with children and teenagers.45

These kinds of services would be particularly important for boys and older teenagers, who may not value reading as highly as girls and younger children. Displaying or suggesting reading materials that are particularly relevant to their daily lives might be one way to encourage more participation. For example, considering the importance of peers in teenagers’ lives,46 suggesting a book that deals with relationships or peer pressure might be particularly relevant to teenagers. Since boys tend to be physical and tend to enjoy competition,47 helping boys select reading materials that focus on movement, sports, or athletics might be one method of making reading relevant to their daily lives. For boys specifically, SRCs could also incorporate programs that foster activity and competition, such as a scavenger hunt in the library.

Additionally, librarians can continue to advocate for children and teenagers to have many options for reading material, both at SRCs and throughout the year. Many children and teenagers have required reading through their schools. SRCs and libraries in particular can present a unique community access space that provides choices and options for reading multiple genres, lengths, and types of reading material.

In terms of incentives related to motivation, libraries should consider that previous research suggests that providing incentives may not actually be helpful in fostering long-term reading behaviors.48 Barbara Ann Marinak found that students who received either rewards that supported reading behaviors (such as books) or no rewards at all were more likely to engage in subsequent reading, whereas suggested students who received tokens not as related to reading exhibited weakened intrinsic motivation to continue reading.49 Therefore, when considering incentives, SRC administrators may want to investigate reward incentives that are more highly related to reading behaviors, such as allowing a child to select a book to keep.

Finally, our study demonstrated that students who participate in SRCs are highly motivated to read. Clearly, there are many children and teenagers in communities who do not share this same motivation for reading, particularly as they move across grades.50A challenge for libraries is to continue to seek new opportunities to recruit children and teenagers who do not choose on their own to participate in SRCs. This message aligns with ALA’s resolution to ensure summer reading programs for all children and teens.51 In addition to the previous ideas suggested, libraries are encouraged to continue to seek out community partnerships that support the value of reading in society. Libraries are uniquely positioned within communities to be advocates for children and teenagers. As such, librarians are encouraged to stay active in both state and national literacy conversations.

Several important future research directions are suggested by this work. First, it is important to further examine how incentives may promote or detract from participation in library programming and to determine what kinds of incentives might be the most enticing. Many libraries invest heavily in using extrinsic incentives to motivate participation, yet the results of this study suggest that intrinsic motivators may be most powerful.

Second, it is also important for libraries to consider how to motivate children and teenagers with low motivation toward reading to participate in library programming. It may be that these youngsters have the most to gain from such programs. Systematic research on how reluctant readers can be brought into libraries is a critically important avenue for future research.

‘ References and Notes

1. Stephanie Bertin, “A History of Youth Summer Reading Programs in Public Libraries” (2004), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, http://etd.ils.unc. edu/dspace/bitstream/1901/92/1/stephaniebertin.pdf (accessed September 7, 2013); Carol D. Fiore, Fiore’s Summer Library Reading Program Handbook (New York: Neal-Schuman, 2005).

2. American Library Association (ALA), “2009—2010 ALA CD#47,” (accessed September 7, 2013).

3. Laura M. Justice et al., “Library-Based Summer Reading Clubs: Who Participates and Why?” Library Quarterly 83, no. 4 (2013): 321—40.

4. Bureau of the Census, State and Country QuickFacts: Columbus, Ohio (Washington, DC: Bureau of the Census, 2010).

5. Geoffrey D. Borman and Matthew Boulay, Summer Learning Research, Policies, and Programs (Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates, 2004).

6. Edward L. Deci et al., “Motivation and Education: The Self-Determination Perspective,” Educational Psychology 26 (1991): 325—46; Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci, “Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being,” American Psychologist 55, no. 1 (2000): 68—78.

7. Allan Wigfield et al., “Children’s Motivation for Reading: Domain Specificity and Instructional Influences,” Journal of Educational Research 97, no. 6 (2004): 299—309.

8. Deci et al., “Motivation and Education”; Ryan and Deci, “Self-Determination Theory.”

9. Wigfield et al., “Children’s Motivation for Reading,” 299—309.

10. Allan Wigfield and John T. Guthrie, “Relations of Children’s Motivation for Reading to the Amount and Breadth of Their Reading,” Journal of Educational Psychology 89, no. 3 (1997): 420—32.

11. Anthony J. Applegate and Mary D. Applegate, “A Study of Thoughtful Literacy and the Motivation to Read,” Reading Teacher 64, no. 4 (2010): 226.

12. Jeff McQuillan, “The Effects of Incentives on Reading,” Reading Research and Instruction 36, no. 2 (1997): 122.

13. Jacquelynne S. Eccles et al., “Self-Concepts, Domain Values, and Self-Esteem: Relations and Changes at Early Adolescence,” Journal of Personality 57 (1989): 283—310; Jacquelynne S. Eccles, “Subjective Task Value and the Eccles et al. Model of Achievement-Related Choices,” in Handbook of Competence and Motivation, ed. Andrew J. Elliot and Carol S. Dweck, 105—21 (New York: Guilford, 2005).

14. Eccles et al., “Self-Concepts, Domain Values, and Self-Esteem”; Eccles, “Subjective Task Value”; Allan Wigfield and Jacquelynne S. Eccles, “The Development of Achievement Task Values: A Theoretical Analysis,” Developmental Review 12 (1992): 265—310.

15. Wigfield et al., “Children’s Motivation for Reading.”

16. Wigfield and Eccles, “The Development of Achievement Task Values”; Jacquelynne Eccles Parsons, “Expectancies, Values and Academic Behaviors,” in Achievement and Achievement Motives: Psychological and Sociological Approaches, ed. Janet. T. Spence, 76—146 (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1983); Judith L. Meece, Allan Wigfield, and Jacquelynne S. Eccles, “Predictors of Math Anxiety and Its Influence on Young Adolescents’ Course Enrollment Intentions and Performance in Mathematics,” Journal of Educational Psychology 82 (1990): 60—70.

17. Isabelle Archambault, Jacquelynne S. Eccles, and Mina N. Vida, “Ability Self-Concepts and Subjective Value in Literacy: Joint Trajectories from Grades 1 through 12,” Journal of Educational Psychology (2010), doi:10.1037/a0021075; Amanda M. Durik, Mina Vida, and Jacquelynne S. Eccles, “Task Values and Ability Beliefs as Predictors of High School Literacy Choices: A Developmental Analysis,” Journal of Educational Psychology 98 (2006): 382—93; John T. Guthrie et al., “Influences of Stimulating Tasks on Reading Motivation and Comprehension,” Journal of Educational Research 99 (2006): 232—46.

18. Wigfield and Eccles, “The Development of Achievement Task Values.”

19. Archambault, Eccles, and Vida, “Ability Self-Concepts and Subjective Value in Literacy.”

20. Wigfield and Guthrie, “Relations of Children’s Motivation for Reading”; Archambault, Eccles, and Vida, “Ability Self-Concepts and Subjective Value in Literacy”; Jon Shapiro and Patricia Whitney, “Factors Involved in the Leisure Reading of Upper Elementary School Students,” Reading Psychology 18 no. 4 (1997): 343—70.

21. Shapiro and Whitney, “Factors Involved in the Leisure Reading.”

22. Lee Shumow, Jennifer A. Schmidt, and Hayal Kacker, “Reading in Class and out of Class: An Experience Sampling Method Study,” Middle Grades Research Journal 3 no. 3 (2008): 97—120.

23. Applegate and Applegate “A Study of Thoughtful Literacy.”

24. Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Greg J. Duncan, “The Effects of Poverty on Children,” Future of Children 7 no 2. (1997): 55—71.

25. Shumow, Schmidt, and Kacker, “Reading in Class and out of Class.”

26. Archambault, Eccles, and Vida, “Ability Self-Concepts and Subjective Value in Literacy.”

27. Ibid., 812.

28. Denise E. Agosto, “The Big Picture of YA Services: Analyzing the Results of the 2012 PLA PLDS Survey,” Young Adult Library Services 11 no. 3 (2013): 13—18.

29. Bureau of the Census, State and Country QuickFacts: Columbus, Ohio (2010).

30. Wigfield and Eccles, “The Development of Achievement Task Values”; Parsons, “Expectancies, Values and Academic Behaviors”; Meece, Wigfield, and Eccles, “Predictors of Math Anxiety.”

31. Jacquelynne S. Eccles and Allan Wigfield, “In the Mind of the Actor: The Structure of Adolescents’ Achievement Task Values and Expectancy-Related Beliefs,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21 (1995): 215—25.

32. Wigfield and Eccles, “The Development of Achievement Task Values”; Parsons, “Expectancies, Values and Academic Behaviors”; Meece, Wigfield, and Eccles, “Predictors of Math Anxiety.”

33. Eccles and Wigfield, “In the Mind of the Actor.”

34. Eccles et al., “Self-Concepts, Domain Values, and Self-Esteem”; Eccles, “Subjective Task Value”; Wigfield and Eccles, “The Development of Achievement Task Values”; Parsons, “Expectancies, Values and Academic Behaviors”; Meece, Wigfield, and Eccles, “Predictors of Math Anxiety.”

35. Eccles and Wigfield, “In the Mind of the Actor.”

36. Wigfield et al., “Children’s Motivation for Reading”; Wigfield and Guthrie, “Relations of Children’s Motivation for Reading”; Applegate and Applegate, “A Study of Thoughtful Literacy.”

37. Wigfield and Guthrie, “Relations of Children’s Motivation for Reading”; Archambault, Eccles, and Vida, “Ability Self-Concepts and Subjective Value in Literacy”; Shapiro and Whitney, “Factors Involved in the Leisure Reading.”

38. Barbara A. Marinak and Linda B. Gambrell, “Reading Motivation: Exploring the Elementary Gender Gap,” Literacy Research and Instruction 49 (2010): 129—41.

39. Archambault, Eccles, and Vida, “Ability Self-Concepts and Subjective Value in Literacy”; Shumow, Schmidt, and Kacker, “Reading in Class and out of Class.”

40. Wigfield and Guthrie, “Relations of Children’s Motivation for Reading”; Archambault, Eccles, and Vida, “Ability Self-Concepts and Subjective Value in Literacy”; Shapiro and Whitney, “Factors Involved in the Leisure Reading.”

41. Archambault, Eccles, and Vida, “Ability Self-Concepts and Subjective Value in Literacy.”

42. Linda B. Gambrell, “Seven Rules of Engagement: What’s Most Important to Know about Motivation to Read,” Reading Teacher 65 (2011): 172—78.

43. Ibid.

44. Catherine Sheldrick Ross and Mary K. Chelton, “Reader’s Advisory: Matching Mood and Material,” Library Journal 126, no. 2 (2001): 52—55; Bill Crowley, “Rediscovering the History of Readers Advisory Service,” Public Libraries 44, no. 1 (2005): 37—41.

45. Duncan Smith, “Reinventing Readers’ Advisory,” Readers’ Advisor’s Companion (2001): 59—75.

46. Christopher Daddis, “Influence of Close Friends on the Boundaries of Adolescent Personal Authority,” Journal of Research on Adolescence 18, no. 1 (2008): 75—98.

47. Caroline Mansfield and Roger Vallance, “Honouring the Differences: A Re-Examination of Academic Motivation with Reference to Student Gender,” Journal of Education Research 5, ‘ nos. 3/4 (2011): 285—306.

48. Barbara Ann Marinak, “The Effects of Reward Proximity and Choice of Reward on the Reading Motivation of Third-Grade Students,” Order No. 3152501, University of Maryland, College Park, 2004, (accessed September 7, 2013); McQuillan, “The Effects of Incentives on Reading.”

49. Marinak, “The Effects of Reward Proximity and Choice of Reward.”

50. Archambault, Eccles, and Vida, “Ability Self-Concepts and Subjective Value in Literacy.”

51. ALA, “2009—2010 ALA CD#47.”


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