The Research in context
Interest is currently high among researchers and practitioners on the role of the family and the value of home-school collaborations in promoting children's motivation for reading (Baker, 2003).Parental involvement through home-school collaboration is an intervention strategy that may help to improve the literacy levels of students in the Caribbean and specifically in Trinidad and Tobago. Home-school collaboration is a subset of parental involvement because it is a structured arrangement between school and home to promote and /or improve academic performance. The aim of the study was to ascertain whether home-school collaboration helped low performing students in literacy development.
The research therefore sought to find out what practices at home and at school would motivate low performing students in the area of literacy and in so doing improve their academic performance. It also sought to empower parents, teacher and students to work together as a unit to facilitate improvements in literacy skills. Through an action research process it was hoped that a plan of action could be formulated and communicated to parents as a means of assisting their children and in particular low performing students to improve their acquisition of literacy skills.
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Improving the literacy skills of students is of paramount importance to educators, parents and the technocrats alike. Many studies have alluded to the fact that in comparison to other countries we in the Caribbean are deemed to be among the lowest performing nations in the world in terms of literacy achievement (Wilson, Smikle & Grant, 2001; USAID, 2002, p. ix). This trend may be found in many primary schools in Trinidad and Tobago and can be substantiated as far back as 2001where in Trinidad and Tobago, for instance, 52 percent of students scored below 50 percent on the English Language examination (Wilson, Smikle & Grant, 2001).
The Basic Education and Policy Support (BEPS) study, Assessment of Teacher Training and Reading Instruction Needs and Capacities in the Caribbean, conducted by USAID in 2001 and which focused on the quality of basic education, cited literacy as the "weak link in a series of curriculum reforms" and indicated that there still exists "severe challenges, needs, and problems associated with student achievement and teacher training, particularly in reading" (p. viii). Through personal observation and discussions with students, parents and teachers it was suggested that students who perform poorly at reading tasks oftentimes display behaviours that suggest they lack the motivation or interest in reading and other literacy skills. Students' preference and interests are related to motivation and engagement (Guthrie & Greaney,1991; Hunt,1971, Krapp, Hidi & Renninger, 1992 ) and researchers have shown that when students are interested in what is being taught and have access to materials that interest them, learning, motivation effort and attitudes improve (Hidi,1991 ; Schiefele,1991).
How do we as educators bridge the gap between those that are performing and those that are not? How do we as educators and parents motivate them?
The mismatch in schools and/or homes may be the most marked for reluctant readers since materials provided for them hold no personal interest for them (Worthy, Moorman & Turner, 1999). Emergent literacy and social learning theories have contributed much to our understanding of the role of families and communities in advancing literacy learning. Such theories affirm the potent role of families and communities in bolstering student motivations, attitudes and achievement.
Ecological models of literacy including that of Epstein (2001) have emphasized the importance of coordinating the three spheres (home, school and community) which interact to influence children's literacy development. Epstein (2001) has defined a partnership as the "continuous planning, support and participation of school personnel, families and community organizations in coordinated activities at home, in the school and in the community that directly and positively affect the success of all children's learning" (p. 317). It is based on this research that home and school must therefore foster partnerships to ensure the success of all students.
Traditionally in the Caribbean and in Trinidad and Tobago in particular parental involvement can be defined by attendance at Parent Teachers Association (PTA) meetings, assistance in fund raising events and teacher conferences that may occur from time to time. With low-performing students though frustration sets in on the part of the parent, teacher and student and this contributes to the student's lack of motivation and teachers and parents sense of hopelessness. It is hoped that through home/school collaboration which is structured parental involvement that attitudes of students will be altered and they would be motivated in the area of literacy.
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While parental involvement and research based teaching strategies improve the literacy achievement of some students, attitudes towards reading are highly influenced by the attitudes of their teachers especially when it relates to the students that are underperforming. Teachers who are enthusiastic readers are more likely to use instructional activities that promote engagement (Morrison, Jacobs & Swinyard, 1999, as cited in McKool & Gespass, 2009). It has also been posited that "in order to learn, the learner must not only be a witness to the demonstration but in addition be engaged with the demonstration" (Cambourne,2002 as cited in McKool& Gespass, 2009, p.265).
It is therefore important for teachers to be aware of the environment that is created at school. Parents and by extension the home also play a pivotal role in how students view learning and this must be communicated to them. Many of our parents are interested in helping their children but do not feel competent to guide their children. A gap exists in the development of the literacy skills of students and some of the low-performing students lack the motivation and drive to acquire success in the literacy domain. As educators and stakeholders we must therefore utilize all the resources available to us to avert this global crisis in literacy. We must form partnerships to help our learners. Home-school collaboration helps to motivate and spark students' interest in acquiring literacy skills. It is our mandate to help our low performing students in this stage of their literacy development.
Background and interest
As an educator for the past twenty-six years, twenty-one of which were spent as a classroom teacher (teaching classes from the Infant level to the Senior level) it has always been my observation that there has always been a group of students at every class level that has been unable to perform adequately at internal and external examinations in the areas of literacy and numeracy. Many of my peers over the years have suggested that it was the socio-economic status of the child and the lack of interest on the part of the parents. While these have been contributing factors my experience has also shown that teachers who have become stagnant in their professional development have also contributed to this dearth. The unfortunate thing is that administrators often attach teachers with the afore-mentioned beliefs to these low-performing students. Assigning a teacher who may have continued with professional development proved to improve the literacy capacities of the low-performing students.
On becoming a Principal I observed from the administrative standpoint that there needed to be some way of correcting this problem. As a teacher I had engaged the help of the parents and had showed them some of the ways I taught and even some of the practices that I had employed with my daughter. The effect was a change in attitude of the low-performing students in the class in all subject areas and empowerment on the part of the parents over time. I enquired of members of staff at my school and they blamed lack of parental support for low student performance in most subject areas. I enquired of the parents and they wanted to help but did not know how they could help. Thus I presumed if we brought the two groups together, fostered by greater collaboration between school and home in a research- based way then benefits ought to be had for the students, especially those that were under-performing. I honestly feel that teachers needed to change their instructional strategies especially with Caribbean learners and examine ourselves as practitioners. This sparked the light that gave the impetus for the study.
Justification of the study
A global literacy crisis exists today and governments, educators, parents, students and all other stakeholders are concerned about the cadre of learners that is being produced by our school systems. Literacy is a human right. It is a tool for personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. USAID ranked the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region as being among the lowest in the world in terms of literacy achievement (USAID, 2002, p. ix). The problem of literacy will not be easily overcome because there are no quick fixes. Stakeholders should work together to explore and develop solutions that will transform the livelihood of our students. This research provided the opportunity for stakeholders to collaborate and such an opportunity could not be ignored.
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There is need to foster greater home/school collaboration to develop and/or enhance strong literacy abilities of our students. Research has shown that literacy levels can be improved if parents play a pivotal role in their child's learning experience and if students are made accountable for their learning. When parents feel supported by the staff at their children's schools, they are willing to work with the schools in a joint effort to educate their children. When schools learn the value of respectful, bidirectional communication with parents, not only do students benefit but teachers and administrators recognize how much they can learn from what parents tell them about their children.
If we listen to the challenges faced by low performing students and try to bridge the gap in their learning by enhancing their capacity to learn and develop then they ought to be motivated to become literate. Their attitudes and interest in text should be enhanced and their literacy skills should improve. Students who have enjoyment in learning are better learners because they are empowered.
The low-performing students of X Primary School are not motivated to read. In the analysis of National Test scores for Language Arts in Standard Three it was found that the students who achieved scores which indicated that they were performing below the average benchmark at statewide tests had a history of being low-performers. The attitudes to reading and literacy skills of these students were weak and as a consequence their literacy performance is below the average benchmark of statewide National Tests in Language Arts. Parental involvement through home/school collaboration was used as the intervention strategy to improve the literacy capacity of low performing students.
Purpose of the Research
The purpose of the study was to investigate the ways in which home/school collaboration enhanced the literacy levels of low performing students by strengthening their motivation and interest in reading and other literacy abilities/skills.
Overview of Research Paper
The research paper follows a qualitative approach to data collection and analysis. This strategy was used because it best acquires the data necessary to study the research questions posed. The data was collected over a three month period and included the use of observations, interviews and a case study. It has been guided by the following research questions:
1. In what way(s) can parents collaborate to motivate students who are performing poorly in literacy?
2. How will home/school collaboration influence the attitudes/ motivation of students performing poorly in literacy?
3. What resources and practices can enhance the literacy environment at home/school to motivate Standard Three students who are performing poorly in literacy?
Significance of the Research
Most educators recognize parental involvement in school activities and in students' school work as integral to successful school performance. Bridging the gap between home and school is a major objective of much educational policy and is a targeted area of educational reform. The importance of this study is to address the issue of home/school collaboration from a Caribbean perspective and especially in a rural primary school in Trinidad and Tobago.
Walker& Hoover-Dempsey (2006) have indicated that parents and teachers create a context for the development of children's learning and engagement in schoolâ€¦and in so doing produce self-regulated learners which enables the student to have a strong belief in their ability to learn and increase their ability to monitor their understanding and the capacity to act in ways that deepen their comprehension This impacts upon the attitudes fostered by students, parents and teachers towards literacy development. The issue of "true" home-school collaboration is of special importance to the attitudes and the development of our learners. It speaks to the issue of what motivates low-performing students.
From a Caribbean perspective, parental involvement is relegated to assisting in fund-raisers or attending class meetings or PTA events. Home-school collaboration is a structured form of parental involvement. Parents are generally being told that their child may be failing but no guidance is provided as to how this fact can be corrected except to let the child read more or help the child at home. Parents need to know what specifically to do to help their children. If they are to be guided by the professionals who are the teachers, these teachers must be certain of their practice. Parental participation in a child's education is said to be essential for effective teaching and learningâ€¦and their attitude and behavior might also be related to student attitudes towards school and student readiness and motivation to learn (Griffith, 1996).
Through a review of the literature and research findings it has been noted that establishing in parents a sense of control over children's development may be of particular import in promoting quality involvement among parents. To begin to understand what motivates students to read the three dimensions for the motivation of reading must be examined: self concept as a reader, value of reading and reasons for reading (Gambrell, Palmer, Codling & Mazzoni,1996). * check if this quote was done prior.Home-school collaboration works. These dimensions impact on the performance, attitudes and motivation of students. It would be remiss of us as educators if we did not explore this link between home and school in the Caribbean and in particular rural Trinidad and Tobago. It may represent the means by which our low-performing students can be helped in the sphere of literacy development.
1. Availability and willingness of parents to undergo training sessions in literacy instruction.
2. Time available for the conduct of the study.
Summary of the Research
This research paper consists of five chapters. Chapter One describes the context of the research; it also identifies the research problem and the purpose of the research paper. Chapter Two discusses the literature on how home-school collaboration can impact students attitudes and in so doing motivate low-performing students Chapter Three delineates the methodology employed in carry out the research. This chapter also outlines the procedures and describes the instruments used in collecting and analyzing data for the research. Chapters Four and Five present the findings and analysis of the findings. A summary and recommendations are also included in Chapter Five.
Definition of key terms
Parental Involvement- Parental involvement has been defined in practice as representing many different parental behaviors and parenting practices, such as parental aspirations for their children's academic achievement and their conveyance of such aspirations to their children (Fan & Chen, 2001)
Home-school collaboration- The relationship between families and schools, where parents and educators work together to promote the academic and social development of children (Cox, 2005).
Low-performing students- Students who are disengaged from their own learning processes and who are not likely to perform well in school (Collins,1996).
Motivation- The perception of selfâ€efficacy and personal control that underlie the ability to take positive selfâ€control and change negative attitudes and orientations toward learning (McCombs,1984).
Engaging families in the education of their children at home and at school is increasingly viewed as an important way to support better learning outcomes for children. When the school and families work together children have been known to have a higher achievement in school and stay in school longer (Henderson & Mapp,2002; Jeynes,2005; Pomerantz, Moorman, & Litwack, 2007; Reynolds & Clements, 2005). Involving families in their children's education has also been known to predict academic achievement, social and emotional development, and a variety of other positive school outcomes for all children (Howland, Anderson, Smiley & Abbot, 2006). Parental involvement therefore is an integral dimension of the learning capacity of a child.
Variation in the levels of parental involvement in children's learning at home and at school is strongly influenced by family socio-economic status (SES) (Boethel, 2003). It has been noted however that there exists a trend which suggests that parents in families with lower SES often have fewer years of education and, possibly, have had more negative experiences with schools and often may feel unprepared to be involved. It is unfortunate that parents with low SES whose children would most benefit from parental involvement, are more likely to find it difficult to become and remain involved (Lee & Bowen, 2006). Unfortunately, school-home relationships often have been ignored or underdeveloped (Howland, Anderson, Smiley, & Abbot, 2006) in many of our schools.
While a prescription to increase contact with parents sounds simple, changes in school practices require the investment of resources and the professional development for teachers to enhance their capacities to work with families. School-based parental involvement is typically activity- driven, though gaining parental cooperation is not primarily a function of the activities provided.
Engaging parents in strong partnerships requires schools to solicit and respond to parents' suggestions and concerns. It is obligatory in the scheme of things that schools must ask what they can do to make parents feel more confident and comfortable with involvement and to provide the activities and resources that parents need to feel empowered. This has the potential to lay the foundation for home-school collaboration.
Bridging the gap between home and school is a major objective of much educational policy (Pomerantz et al.2007) and the aim of increasing parents' involvement in children's schooling suggests that this intervention is beneficial (Fan & Chen,2001; Hill & Taylor,2004; Jeffers,2003,2005; Pomerantz, Grolnick &Price,2005). It is therefore of great interest to create the links between home and school and to ascertain how it will impact on the literacy development of all students but in particular the low-performing student. This is the challenge that faces the parent, the teacher, the administrator and the wider community of stakeholders.
According to a survey of elementary teachers conducted by O'Flahavan, Gambrell, Guthrie, Stahl & Alverman (1992) of greatest concern to teachers were creating interest in reading, intrinsic desire for reading, parent/school partnerships, instructional programmes for children placed at risk, increasing the breadth of children's reading, and the role of teachers, peers and parents in motivation. These factors are even more significant especially for low-performing or struggling readers.
The research is exhaustive when it comes to parental involvement and academic performance of students. It is therefore necessary to examine specifically how this research bears witness to low-performing students, especially in the sphere of literacy development. In the Caribbean students generally are performing poorly when compared with their North American and European peers in literacy and studies have alluded to the fact that in comparison to other countries we in the Caribbean are deemed to be among the lowest performing nations in the world in terms of literacy achievement (Wilson, Smikle and Grant, 2001, USAID, 2002, p. ix).
The review of literature seeks to elucidate from the research how parental involvement through home-school collaboration can bring some change to the literacy development of the low-performing student. In so doing it aims to add to the body of research about how we as educators, parents and stakeholders can motivate a large majority of students who are at risk and specifically those students in the primary schools of Trinidad and Tobago. The trend of low performance in literacy may be found in many primary schools and can be substantiated as far back as 2001where in Trinidad and Tobago, for instance, 52 percent of students scored below 50 percent on the English Language examination (Wilson, Smikle and Grant, 2001). As a researcher and educator my thrust is to explore the relationship that exists between home and school and ascertain if this motivates the struggling reader. The review of literature is broken down into three sections: parental involvement, home-school collaboration and motivating low performing students.
A growing number of studies confirm positive associations between parental involvement in schools and academic achievement, as well as with children's social and emotional development (Catcambis, 1998; Epstein & Sanders, 2000; Gutman & Midgley, 2000; Izzo, Weissberg, Kasprow, & Fenrich, 1999; Jeynes, 2005; Shaver & Walls, 1998; Starkey & Klein, 2000; VanVoorhis, 2001; Westat, 2001).
Parental involvement has had a positive impact on the literacy levels demonstrated by students and it is well documented that parental influence in their children's formal educational experiences often translate into subsequent differences in reading and other areas of academic achievement (Adams, 1990; Torgesen, Wagner & Rashotte, 1994; Emenanjo, 2002; Ogenyi, 2006; Onukaogu, 2001, as cited in Kirby & Hogan,2008). Parents have also been known to serve as an important resource for teachers because they have valuable information about their children that are essential in planning and executing meaningful educational experiences.
The importance of recognizing parents as their children's first and most enduring educators, and the value of finding effective ways to support them in this role, has been clearly evidenced. In 2003 Professor Charles Desforges carried out an extensive literature review which showed that the influence of the home learning environment was enduring, pervasive and direct. He concluded from this study that the influence of what parents do with their children at home had a significant positive effect on children's wellbeing and achievement after all other variables have been eliminated.
Parent involvement at home is related to positive attitudes toward school and learning for middle school students and the more parents create a positive home learning environment, the more students feel it was important to perform well in school (Shumow & Miller, 2001). It is a determinant factor in improving educational goals and is a means of effecting school reform. The importance of parent support has been emphasized in discussions which state that increased parental involvement will bring about improvements in student achievement and thus improve the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged and middle-class children (Epstein, 1996a; Henderson & Berla, 1994; Hoover-Dempsey & Sandier, 1997). However, parental involvement is determined by parents' efficacy and their belief that they can really assist their children to help them to become efficient learners (Griffith, 1996).
In fact, Christenson, Rounds & Gorney (1992) deem parental participation to mean assessment of school-home communication, parental involvement at school, involvement in the students' learning activities and in school decision-making and governance. Comer & Haynes (1991) found parental participation in a child's education to be essential for effective teaching and learningâ€¦and parents' attitude and behavior might also be related to student attitudes towards school, student readiness and motivation to learn.
Parents therefore, play a critical role in the literacy development of their children. Their beliefs and what they say and do makes a difference in the literacy development of the child. Castle (1994) emphasized the need for teachers to include parents in improving the self-concept of children with reading difficulties because improvements in self-concept are not likely unless all significant parties are involved. (Greaney & Hegarty,1987 as cited in Baker, 2003) view parental support as including such factors as the availability of reading materials in the home, parental reading behavior, and the frequency of reading to the child. They also found that students from supportive environments have more positive attitudes to reading and strongly endorse the view that enjoyment is an important reason for reading. Setting expectations is considered a challenge for parents, however, focusing on the child's attitudes toward school and study habits rather than only grades, especially for adolescents, is beneficial (Redding, 2000). It is in this regard that family support and involvement are therefore associated with student engagement.
From a Caribbean perspective parental involvement is relegated to assisting in fund-raisers or attending class meetings or PTA events. True parental involvement as stated in the research is not generally practiced in the Caribbean, especially with the parents that are of low-socio-economic status. Low-income parents may resist direct involvement in school since children of low-income parents achieve lower, on average, than students from other income levels, and research on parent practices has indicated that low-income parents are less involved (Drummond & Stipek, 2004).
"Parents in the low-income community were less familiar with school curriculum,
engaged less in teaching at home, and were less likely to attend school events. The
lower-income parents explained that they had less time and flexibility to meet
involvement expectations. A few of these parents indicated that their responsibilities
were limited to meeting children's basic and social-emotional needs, such as
providing clothing, emotional support, and socializing manners."( Lareau,1987,as
cited in Drummond & Stipek ,2004. p.198 )
This scenario is further exacerbated when parents are told that their child may be failing but little guidance is provided as to how this fact can be corrected except to "let the child read more or help the child at home". Parents need to know what specifically to do to help their children. Building the bridges between the spheres of home and school can assist the student through home-school collaboration which is a structured form of parental involvement.
Lareau, (1987) stated that parental involvement could become counterproductive when it increased the child's anxiety level and produced negative learning experiences...Sometimes it can be helpful, sometimes it creates too much pressure. Sometimes they learn things wrong. It is better for them to leave the basics alone . . .and take them to museums, do science, and other enrichment activities. Pomerantz et al. (2007) have found that when parents are involved in an irritable, critical manner, they may convey that doing school work is an unpleasant taskâ€¦The beliefs that parents have about children's potential may determine the character of their involvement. What was significant in the research was the fact that if parent's involvement was controlling, person focused and characterized by negative affect or accompanied by negative beliefs this represented negative costs to children (Pomerantz et al.2007). Parental involvement could therefore become counterproductive when it increased the child's anxiety level and produced negative learning experiences (Lareau, 1987).
Collaboration is a common term which refers to working together toward a common goal or set of goals. Home-school collaboration is a reciprocal dynamic process that occurs among systems (e.g., families, communities, and partnerships), schools/ classrooms, and/or individuals (e.g., parents, educators, administrators, psychologists) who share in decision making toward common goals and solutions related to students (Cowan, Swearer & Sheridan, 2004). It occurs between at least one parent/guardian and at least one individual in the school system (e.g. educator, administrator, reading specialist). In this collaborative effort both parties share in the decision making responsibility to determine goals and solutions related to a student and their learning.
Home-school collaboration may occur at three levels: system (i.e., between the home and school settings), school/classroom, and individual (Cowan et al, 2004) All participants (e.g., parents, educators) offer their unique roles and contributions, and this guides the collaboration process. Christenson (1995) has made a clear distinction between parent involvement in education and home-school collaboration. Although parent involvement may involve a one-way flow of information from school to home (such as when parents attend parent-teacher conferences during which they are mostly listeners), home-school collaboration by nature involves an exchange of communication. According to Christenson(1995) "home-school collaboration results in a shared responsibility among parents and educators for educational outcomes" (p. 119) and is a means to an end (i.e., greater educational success for children) rather than an end in and of itself.
Parents and educators involved in collaboration, pool their resources to create a cooperative interdependent relationship. In this sphere parents relay information about what they know about their children's academic and behavioral strengths and limitations at home and in other non-school settings. The teachers in turn offer their knowledge of students' relative strengths and limitations in the classroom and other educational settings. Together both parties use the knowledge and information to help the learners. The collaboration process is guided by a primary emphasis on specific cooperatively predetermined outcomes for students, with mutually established academic and behavioral goals (Cowan et al, 2004). Home school collaboration therefore is a structured form of parental involvement.
Chance (2010) states that the main aim of home-school collaboration is "family literacy". Family literacy is an educational method based on a common belief that improvement in literacy skills and overall academic performance will result from continuing education of children and their parents through planned child-parent interactions. It is the fuel that drives home-school collaboration. McNaughton, Parr, Timperly & Robinson (1992) state that parents are not likely to be able to help struggling readers effectively without focused and supported instruction. Teachers then should not assume parents know how to help their children who are struggling and it is important to provide guidance to parents to help them gain confidence in their ability to help (Castle, 1994).
Teachers then, should provide specific advice on what to read, how much to read, how long to read, how to respond to mistakes, what discussions to hold with children, and how to keep the experience enjoyable (Ollila & Mayfield,1992). Working with parents to scaffold their ways of interacting with their children is a worthwhile activity. Rubert (1994) suggests that three forms of support reading when administered to children by their parents had positive results- echo reading, partner reading and independent reading.
Teachers also need to recognize that many parents of struggling readers may not be skilled themselves. Oftentimes, the parents may not even be able to read the communications that the teacher sends home from school, let alone be motivated to read on their own or with their children (Baker, 2003). The aim therefore is for educators to guide parents about how the home contributes to the literacy development of the student. Home based involvement represents parents' practices that take place outside the school, such as helping with homework, creating a space for children to study, responding to children's academic endeavours (Pomerantz et al 2007).
Some experts clarify family literacy in terms of initiatives, another word for programs or projects. Initiatives are "viewed as holding the key to eventual academic success of children who are identified as at risk for failure in U. S. schools" (Paratore, Melzi & Krol-Sinclair, 1999, p. 1) while family literacy programs are deemed to be " interventions that interpret family differences as deprivation and as representative of a belief that children will succeed in schools" only if they learn to behave in traditionally mainstream ways (Paratore, Melzi & Krol-Sinclair, 1999, p. 3).
Scholars have also employed the term "home literacy environment" (HLE) to refer to the subset of environmental factors thought to be most germane for literacy growth (Foy & Mann, 2003; Leseman & de Jong, 1998; Burgess, Hecht & Lonigan, 2002). Family characteristics such as parental education expectation, family educational support, and parental academic interest are important predictors of reading achievement in students. These characteristics affect not only the quality of reading but also the equity of reading achievement, narrowing both the gender and socioeconomic gap and enlarging the gap in reading achievement.
Low Performing students and motivation
Motivating students to read is a particularly troubling problem when it comes to struggling readers. These students are likely to do less reading in school and at home than their peers who are more capable readers (Dreher & Baker, 2003). Pressley (2000) states that the frequent admonition for children to read, read, read makes sense in that extensive reading promotes fluency, vocabulary and background knowledge . It was also noted that students who read very little do not have the benefits that come with lots of reading (Dreher & Baker,2003). The consequences of the lack of reading, termed "the Matthew Effect" in which the rich get rich and the poor get poorer is a factor that has to be considered in the literacy development of the child (Stanovich,1986). When struggling readers are not motivated to read, their opportunities to learn decrease (Baker, Dreher & Guthrie, 2000).
One promising avenue for improving students' attitudes and reading competence is to provide an array of materials that are personally interesting (Worthy, 1996). The tragedy is that the mismatch in schools and/or at homes may be the most marked for reluctant readers since the materials provided hold no personal interest for them (Worthy et al.1999). Researchers have shown that when students are interested in what is being taught and have access to materials that interest them, learning, motivation, effort and attitudes improve (Hidi, 1991; Schiefele,1991). Perhaps the answer to motivating students to read is as simple as encouraging them to follow their interests (Worthy et al.1999).
Teachers must recognize that motivation is at the heart of many of the pervasive problems we face in educating today's children (Lepper,1988) and motivating children to read is a high priority because many students are at risk of reading failure for motivational reasons (Palmer, Codling & Gambrell,1994).To fully understand what it means to be literate therefore, we must understand how children acquire the motivation to develop into active, engaged readers (Guthrie, Schafer, Wang & Afflerbach, 1993). A number of theories emphasize the importance of personal feelings of competence and situational factors in motivation (Ford, 1992; Winne,1985) and these theories must direct how the home and school approach the low-performing student.
Children's motivation for literacy is best understood in terms of development in specific contexts. Nolen (2007) suggested that development in literacy skill and teachers' methods of instruction and raising motivation provided affordances and constraints for literate activity and its accompanying motivations. She further posited that the positions of poor readers and the strategies they use were negotiated and developed in response to the social meanings of reading, writing, and relative literacy skill co-constructed by students and teachers in each classroom. While teachers of young children often list developing a love of reading and writing as among their most important literacy goals for their students (Nolen, 2007), relatively little research has focused on the process of developing literacy motivation among the youngest readers and writers. In part, this lack is due to the difficulties of applying traditional approaches of motivation research to young children.
McCombs (1996) described research determining the keys to the process of fostering motivation and engagement in the classroom are good teachers, confident about their knowledge and teaching ability and teaching according to their own philosophies, goals, and personalities where choice and autonomy are as important for teachers as for students. Current theories of motivation however, recognize that social interactions such as discussions with peers or family facilitate literacy learning (Gambrell, Mazzoni & Almasi, 2000).
The social contexts in which reading and writing occur contribute to children's notions of the nature of reading and writing and their place in school and family life (Baker, Scher, & Mackler, 1997; Freppon, 1991; Heath, 1982; Scher & Baker, 1997) and numerous researchers have documented relationships between instruction and other contextual variables and motivation for literacy (Bogner, Raphael, & Pressley, 2002; Guthrie & Alao, 1997; Guthrie & Knowles, 2001; Nolen, 2007: Oldfather, 2002; Oldfather & Dahl, 1994; Thorkildsen, 2002).
Instruction that provides cognitive and emotional supports for learning can also increase students' motivation (Turner, Meyer, Cox, Logan, DiCintio & Thomas, 1998). Allowing students to pursue their interests does more than provide a sense of autonomy and self-direction. It allows children to make use of prior knowledge useful for understanding and producing text (Hidi & Anderson, 1992; Hidi, Berndorff, & Ainley, 2002) making success experiences more likely and fostering self-efficacy and positive emotions (Pajares,2003; Pekrun, Goetz, Titz, & Perry, 2002; Walker, 2003). Teachers who normalize individual differences by using methods that allow for individual differences in skill, purpose, and strategy can communicate to students that they are valued for who they are, encouraging students to be honest about their weaknesses and to take pride in their strengths (Oldfather, 2002; Thorkildsen, 2002; Thorkildsen, Nicholls, Bates, Brankis, & DeBolt, 2002). The place of literacy (and of reading and writing competence) in the social structure of the classroom may also influence children's motivation to learn.
Motivation development recognizes the overlapping influences of teachers, siblings, peers and the child himself/herself (Baker, 2003). Most children start off with optimism and interest in learning to read but those who experience difficulties quickly develop a concept of the self as a poor reader, and their motivation for reading declines. They read less, both in school and out, than children who are succeeding (Baker, Sonnenschein & Switkin, 2001). The amount that children read influences further growth in reading (Baker et al. 2000; Stanovich, West, Cunningham, Cipieleweski, & Siddiqui, 1996).
Reading activities at home predicted the children's reading attitudes, and these relations grew stronger with increasing age (Baker,2003).The data from the available research converge in suggesting that children who have more opportunities to engage in literacy-relevant activities at home have more positive views about reading, engage in more leisure reading, and have higher reading achievement(Baker,2003). Nevertheless, research has documented large numbers of "alliterate" students, that is, capable readers who do not choose to read (Shapiro & Whitney,1997). Therefore, enhancing reading motivation should be a concern not only for struggling readers but for all readers. Parents need to convey to their children that reading is pleasurable and worthwhile.
Many children who are struggling readers do not see a connection between what they learn at school and what happens in their lives beyond the classroom. (Baker, 2003; McCarthey, 2000; Gentile & McMillan,1991) term this "a cultural disconnect between home and school" This has been known to create motivational problems. Drawing on students' home culture and interests in classroom activities puts teachers in a better position to reach struggling readers and children who are unmotivated by what they are experiencing in school.(Gentile & McMillan,1990; 1991; McCarthey,2000; Sonnenschein & Schmidth,2000).
It is imperative then, that educators and parents note that children need support, concern and interest from parents, but if aspirations, expectations and pressures are too high, there can be a negative impact (Baker, 2003). School personnel must work with parents to help them change their perceptions of their struggling readers away from labels such as "lazy" and "not trying to perceptions that allow them to provide the child with appropriate support (Bricklin,1994). Counselling is also beneficial for parents of struggling readers in that it can help them better understand their children's difficulties and how to assist their children, as well as how to deal with their own feelings of guilt, anger, frustration, embarrassment, and/or disappointment and achievement (Navin & Bates, 1987). The same conditions that enhance motivation in the classroom will enhance motivation at home: - choice, collaboration and a risk-free environment.
Research shows that there is a direct relationship between parental involvement and student achievement. In the Caribbean we are lagging behind in our practice of partnering with parents when compared to the wider world. The home environment has an impact on how the child views learning therefore the school has a mandate to provide information to parents to help them to promote healthy learning environments. If we are to teach our students well then we have to know their backgrounds, their home environment, promote parental involvement and ensure that our instructional practice is research based.
Parental involvement of the kind that can happen outside the school building can be distinguished from parental participation that involves direct school- or- classroom level participation or intervention (Lewis & Forman, 2002).
Parents and teachers therefore have to create a context for the development of children's learning and engagement in schoolâ€¦and in so doing produce self-regulated learners which enables the student to have a strong belief in their ability to learn and increase their ability to monitor their understanding and the capacity to act in ways that deepen their comprehension (Walker& Hoover-Dempsey, 2006). This impacts upon the attitudes fostered by students, parents and teachers towards literacy development.
The literature suggests that the literacy development of low-performing students can be enhanced through motivation. The ingredients needed to motivate the child take the cue from theorists and researchers and deals with the child's self-concept, the guidance and support from home and school and the availability of a wide range of suitable resources and experiences. The collaborative effort of home, school and student may contribute to the development of literacy in all students but in particular the at-risk or low-performing students.
Motivation is a complicated issue. There are myriad reasons why people choose to do what they do (Crow & Small, 2011). Deci & Ryan (1985) discovered that interest is maintained-or even increased-when social contexts foster one's psychological needs for autonomy (using free will, having choices), competence (feeling capable), and relatedness (connecting with others). Students need to have intrinsic motivation if they are to move from being struggling readers to lifelong learners.
Commonly the reward in education for the accomplishment of a learning task is praise. However most of the research on praise (Dweck, 2000; Amabile, 1996; Brophy,1981) have revealed that the way praise is typically given can have the same negative effects on student motivation as other extrinsic motivators, i.e., decrease students' confidence, feelings of autonomy, creative thinking and problem solving, and overall intrinsic motivation. Fortunately, the prudent use of sincere praise which emphasizes the accomplished task, combined with support and encouragement that focuses on students' effort and hard work rather than on their abilities, can have a positive impact on their learning motivation (Dweck, 2000; Hitz & Driscoll, 1989). The "real goal" is for students to read and seek information to improve their lives, resulting in what educators hope will be a joyful experience, or at the very least, a satisfying habit (Crow & Small, 2011).
Partnerships, like all relationships, take time to form and require mutual cultivation to develop and evolve. However, they can result in both meaningful and effective educational and developmental outcomes for children and yield benefits that cannot be achieved when families and schools work in isolation. With the appropriate approach, atmosphere, attitudes, and actions, home-school partnerships can create an essential condition for optimal success (Cowan, Swearer, & Sheridan, 2004). Research into engagement has verified that there is no one-size-fits-all quick fix for the struggling or reluctant reader.