The Influence of Student Ethnicity on Reading Motivation

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Reading is fundamental part of education from the primary grades to secondary grades. It is imperative to develop a sound foundation for early readers so they may be successful later in their school career. Several factors contribute to the success of students in the area of reading and ensure them as a life-long reader; A reader that shows a joy of reading. The purpose of the review is to examine how aspects, of a student's ethnic background affect their attitude toward reading and ultimately.


A review of literature was conducted to identify re-occurring themes that established factors of a student's ethnicity as it related to reading motivation. The search began at ERIC database where articles addressed what affects reading motivation and how students are engaged in the reading process. GALILEO was used to navigate an in depth search on ethnicity and its connection to reading. Later in the search articles were taken from Google Scholar where information in the article delves further into ethnic backgrounds, and the plethora of factors that impede the student's achievement in reading.


The search showed numerous articles that focused on specific aspects of ethnicity to those that examined several factors, such as socio-economic background, gender differences, home environment, and parental involvement, which in turn affect the attitude of the reader. Parental involvement was a key component that affected a student's attitude and motivation to read.


Parental involvement has many potential benefits it can offer education. When parents are more involved in their child's schooling, their children perform better academically. Students' perception of their parents' values about achievement had the strongest relation with both motivation and competence. Lower income youth's measure of academic achievement has a wide discrepancy among minority groups.


Ethnicity, Motivation, Parental Involvement, Gender, Socio-Economic Background, Home Environment

Chapter One

Introduction and Problem Statement

Reading is the fundamental part of the education process from the primary to the secondary levels. It is imperative that educators and families merge together and motivate students to be life-long readers. Students who cannot read will not be successful. In a student's early years a foundation must be established to ensure success later in life. Students' view of themselves in academic settings and their academic self-confidence play a critical role in their achievement. Achievement and attitude is affected by home environment variables, such as television watching, spare time reading, and school characteristics. Children must possess skill and will to read to develop into mature effective readers.

Statement of Research Problem

Cognitive measures indicate that students will be able to achieve nothing without the necessary motivation, confidence, and attitude toward learning. Positive relations with teachers in the classroom and between home and school appear to be less common for low-income and racial minority children than for higher income white students. Teachers perceive ethnic minority parents as engaging in few school involvement behaviors and as less cooperative as Caucasian parents. (Hughes/Kwok) African American children and their parents, relative to Hispanics, and Caucasian children and their parents, had less supportive relationships with teachers. In 2005, 41% of white fourth graders were proficient in reading, compared with 13% black, and 16% Hispanic students. (Hughes/Kwok) Middle and high-income readers have greater access to reading materials than do low-income readers. (Mckool, 2007)

Definition of Terms

- Ethnicity-ethnic traits, background, allegiance, or association. (An ethnic group)

- Student Motivation-A students desire to participate in the learning process.

- Intrinsic Motivation- motivated to undertake an activity

- Extrinsic Motivation - student performs "in order to" attain some reward

- Parental Involvement- Of concerned with, or like parents. Parental involvement is a combination of commitment on the part of the parent to the school and the student.

- Gender Differences- a distinction of biological and physiological characteristics typically associated with either males or females of a species.

- Socio-Economic Background- The position of an individual on a socio-economic scale that measures such as education, income type of occupation, place of residence and in some populations' heritage and religion.

- Home-Environment- Home is where the heart is. Home where you live, environment: surroundings


Few would argue about the importance of being a strong reader. Clearly, reading is a Keystone skill that serves as they key to access other forms of learning as well as entertainment (Lyon 1996) unfortunately; many students struggle to acquire the skills to become strong readers. Many of these students are African Americans. Gaps in early literacy skills are troublesome given that these deficits tend to broaden overtime. Interventions efforts become increasingly absent as students progress to higher-grade levels. Teacher and parents must establish a positive relationship toward education to narrow the gap of reading and student achievement.

Chapter Two

Socio-Economic- Background

The low academic achievement of some ethnic minority youths such as Afro-Americans, Mexican Americans, and Puerto Rican-American is a major national problem that warrants urgent action by local, state, and national levels. There is a 30-point achievement gap between blacks and white students and between economically disadvantage and advantage students. (Williams, 2008) Students from economically disadvantage families often have difficulties in reading and mathematics achievements early in elementary school that tends to increase with grades relative to peers. In discussing the achievement of ethnic minority groups, parents are acutely aware that without educational credentials their children may be deprived access to higher levels of education and training. (Sammons, 1995)

Gender Roles

More boys than girls feel a sense of disdain for reading. Girls often have a stronger competence belief in reading than boys. Black males as a group experience disproportionate amounts of school failure compared to black females . Black males account for the highest dropout rates, poorest achievement, and lowest test scores. In the experience of reading in school that results in boredom and patterns of avoidance, attitudes are particularly marked in boys. (Millard, 1997) Patterns of differences were identified in the favored narrative content of boys and girls in their choice of books, films, and computer programs. It also pointed to significant differences in access to particular reading experiences determined by contexts in which literacy events occurred. Boys cited their mothers most frequently as the heaviest readers in the home. Sisters were mentioned more than fathers, brothers and grandmothers. Grandfathers were not mentioned. When a father was reported as the main reader in the family, the general pattern given was one of reading for a set purpose, rather than as a leisure pursuit. (Millard, 1997)

Parental Involvement

There are many factors of parent involvement that impacts the success of a student. Parent involvement has many potential benefits it can offer education. Parent's education level and income affects a student's reading motivation.

Inner-city African American children who attain high academic achievement generally come from home where mothers encouraged, independence, and ambition. That supported their Childs academic efforts. States that receive funding from NCLB Act must comply with specific practices involving parents in the education of their children. When parents are more involved in their child's schooling, their children perform better academically. Parents who discuss with their children the books that they are reading at home promote voluntary reading

Students' perception of their parents' values about achievement had the strongest relation with both motivation and competence, (Gonzalez-Dehass, 2005) home reading impacted achievement directly and indirectly through attitudes. Parent involvement generally benefits children's' adolescent learning and academic success. Programs in early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school indicate that efforts to improve student outcomes are more effective when the family is actively involved.

Chapter Three

Summary of Results

Results revealed that the beginning readers had generally positive views about reading and that not differences in motivation were associated with income level, ethnicity or gender. (Baker, 2002)

Children's motivation for reading was not associated with frequency of storybook reading or library visit, but frequent use of basic skills book were negatively associated with motivation. Parents that believe that reading is pleasurable convey a perspective that is appropriated by their children, either directly or indirectly through the nature of the literacy experiences they provide.

Significant gender, ethnic language and socio-economic differences in absolute attainment were evident throughout the junior years of education (years 3- 6), ages 7-11 years.

The overall impact of background factors varied for different cognitive areas, being stronger for reading than mathematics attainment. In elementary through junior-high school gender and ethnic effects were more marked for reading than for mathematics attainment. In terms of relative progression reading, socio-economic factors were more important for reading.

Interventions focused on motivation indeed do work and they can be especially effective for ethnic minority students.

Results indicate that classroom level curriculum development improved student learning and motivation, while curriculum transmission did not result in significant student learning or increase their motivation.

From a sample of 1,459 9-years old students, they found significant progress of students who had higher parental expectations for their child's academic achievement.

Age related decline in students' attitude about reading when they leave elementary school.


Reading is necessary skill that affects many factors in and out of school. Student attitude towards reading is reflective of their success. Students will be able to achieve nothing without the motivation, confidence, and attitude toward learning. Aspects of ethnicity play a vital part of reading motivation and student achievement. These influences include socio-economic background, gender roles, and parent involvement. Students that come from low-income households have minimal amount of reading motivation. This attitude filters down from a cycle that continues to repeat itself from one generation to the next. Studies have shown and confirmed the stereotype that girls are stronger readers than boys, African-American boys struggle more with success in reading. When reading for pleasure is absent in the home it permeates to a student's motivation. It is imperative that parents display a value interest in their child's education. When a student's perception of their parent's reading is positive, the student has a positive attitude toward reading. It has been proven that parents who are involved in the learning process have children that achieve surround able success.


The limitation of this study stems from the availability of peer-reviewed articles that specifically addressed aspects of my topic. Most of the articles dealt with reading and student motivation. The influence of student ethnicity warrants another issue that impedes locating information on components regarding this topic. Articles that delve into significant aspects of my topic require purchasing. A combination of keywords that relate to student motivation and reading had to be utilized to navigate my search. The exclusion of non-peer reviewed articles about ethnicity and reading motivation may have been used to inform this review.

Implication of Classroom Practice

Although there is significant literature on reading and standard motivation, there are several practices that can be used in the classroom to improve reading instruction among various ethnic groups.

There is a direct connection between the types of cognitive processing strategies students execute during reading and how well they remember and compromised the text. Teachers must help children make connections to the text and build background information. This will enable students to grasp an understanding of the text. Instructing students to read with a particular purpose will help those with limited knowledge and reading skills.

Teachers can begin to bridge the differences among race by providing multicultural books in their classroom libraries. Data suggest that students often choose books with characters that have different racial backgrounds.

Developing a community of people interested in improving reading achievement is and ingoing trend in education. The kinds of experiences children have in the classroom strongly influence their motivation for reading and other subjects.

Students' efficacy comes primarily from successfully completing achievement activities. When the material to be learned is clearly organized conceptually and provides cognitive challenges students will be motivated to master it.

Students made it clear that teachers could promote voluntary reading by finding out what students are interested in reading and providing access to those materials. When students experience a sense of belonging at school and supportive relationships with teachers and classmates, they are motivated to participate actively and appropriately in the life of the classroom.

Application to Practice in Teacher Leadership

Teachers' leaders must be cognizant of their influence on the entire learning community. A vital asset in improving the reading curriculum is the involvement of school administrators. Teachers as leaders and administrators must demonstrate their vested interest in the reading curriculum. This can be displayed in school-wide activities that involve teachers and students in the reading process. Setting school-wide reading initiatives will be instrumental in forming a thriving and viable reading community that ensures success. Administrators, curriculum support specialist and reading coaches must provide teachers with professional development opportunities that will assist teachers with reading instruction. Teachers must collaborate and plan on a regular basis to establish a learning community that allows students to be successful. Parents must be an essential part of the learning community.

Recommendation for Further Research

Research on motivation in children from different ethnic and income group is still limited. In particular, to date no attempt has been made to collate results whether such differences such as ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic differences remind stable or increase/decrease over time for a particular groups or specific educational outcomes. Student motivation as an academic outcome of parent involvement has only recently been investigated. Further research is needed to identify specific components of ethnicity and how it affects each individual ethnic group as a separate entity.