Teenagers Reading

research for my PhD thesis

Research into Reading

with one comment

I’m finalizing the literature review for my thesis. (I may even have a thesis to submit one day soon!) And I revisited two papers:

  • “Is there a decline in the reading romance?” by Stephen Krashen and Debra Von Sprecken, and
  • “Longitudinal study of the reading attitudes and behaviors of middle school students” by Terry Ley, Barbara Schaer, and Betsy Dismukes.

Krashen and Von Sprecken examined the results of a number of studies of children’s reading [1], including Ley, Schaer, and Dismukes’ longitudinal survey of 160 US students over three years as they progressed from sixth to eighth grade [2].

In their review of the literature Krashen and Von Sprecken looked at “how much children enjoyed reading” and concluded any decrease in reading enjoyment as children age is only slight. Most studies used a 5-point scale and the average was always above 2.5.

At no stage do children show a negative attitude toward reading. [3]

Krashen and Von Sprecken summarized the findings of Ley, Schaer and Dismukes as the amount of reading decreases from grade six to eight [4]. Ley, Schaer and Dismukes determined this using the Reading Behavior Profile (RBP) [5]. They also determined reading attitudes of the students with the Teale-Lewis Reading Attitude Scales, made up of measures for three motivations: Individual Development, Utilitarian and Enjoyment [6].

During my trip down memory lane (I read both papers some time ago) I discovered something disconcerting. Ley, Schaer and Dismukes stated,

A statistically significant relationship exited between the reading attitudes and the reading behaviors reported by the students…both their general reading attitudes and their frequency of voluntary reading declined during the three year period. [7]

The presence of a decline in general reading attitudes during the three years is incorrect due to an error in calculation. Table 1 showed the total scores for the Teale-Lewis Reading Attitude Scales [8], but the individual scores shown in Table 3 did not add to these totals [9]. Here are the scores from Table 1 and my calculations:

Students (n=164) Ley et al.
Mean total attitude
My calculation for
Mean total attitude
Grade 6 97.4 94.8
Grade 7 96.6 96.0
Grade 8 94.8 94.6

Thus, reading attitudes did not decrease with age. The decrease was a major finding of the paper. Conversely to what was described in the Abstract, Results and Discussion, there was a slight increase and then decrease, which conforms more to the “relative stability” of the individual scores [7]. Ley, Schaer, & Dismukes also discussed the separate scores for Individual Development, Utilitarian and Enjoyment and these findings were correctly reported [10].

Krashen and Von Sprecken didn’t mention this inaccuracy because they focused on the Enjoyment subscale of the Teale-Lewis Reading Attitude Scales. I wondered if I read Tables 1 & 3 correctly and a mistake was actually made. My supervisor agrees with me, but how did such a big blunder get past the three authors, journal editor and reviewer(s) of this peer reviewed article?


  1. Krashen, Stephen & Von Sprecken, Debra (2002) Is there a decline in the reading romance? Knowledge Quest, vol.30, no.3, pp.11-17
  2. Ley, Terry, Schaer, Barbara & Dismukes, Betsy (1994) Longitudinal study of the reading attitudes and behaviors of middle school students Reading Psychology, vol.15, no.1, pp.11-38
  3. Krashen & Von Sprecken, p.11
  4. Krashen & Von Sprecken, p.12
  5. Ley, Schaer and Dismukes, p.20
  6. Ley, Schaer and Dismukes, p.17
  7. Ley, Schaer and Dismukes, p.29
  8. Ley, Schaer and Dismukes, p.23
  9. Ley, Schaer and Dismukes, p.27
  10. Ley, Schaer and Dismukes, p.30

Written by ClareSnow

18 June 2009 at 2:11 pm

One Response

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  1. While doing some research, I came across your article. I too, am working on a thesis to complete my MEd. Reading is the topic I have chosen, specifically interest and motivation for middle schoolers. I am trying, without much success, to find a rating system used in the Ley article that you reference here. I want to use the Reading Behavior Profile. Did you use this, or find this specific profile anywhere? I appreciate any information you can give me.

    Erin Beamon

    4 October 2009 at 12:07 pm

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