Reading in a Foreign Language    ISSN 1539-0578
Volume 19, Number 1, April 2007

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Japanese high school students’ motivation for extensive L2 reading

Atsuko Takase
Baika High School/Kansai University
Japan

Abstract

To investigate factors that motivate Japanese high school students to read English extensively, I assessed 219 female high school students who participated in an extensive reading program for 1 academic year. The results showed that the 2 most influential factors were students’ intrinsic motivation for first language (L1) reading and second language (L2) reading. However, no positive relationship between L1 reading motivation and L2 reading motivation was observed. Follow-up interviews, conducted with 1/3 of the participants, illuminated aspects of the motivation that the quantitative data did not reveal. Several enthusiastic readers of Japanese were not motivated to read in English due to the gaps between their abilities to read in Japanese and in English. In contrast, the intrinsic motivation of enthusiastic readers of English was limited to L2 reading and did not extend to their L1 reading habits.

Keywords: extensive reading, motivation, second language reading, motivational factors, intrinsic motivation, graded readers

Extensive reading has gradually been gaining popularity as one of the most effective strategies for motivating second language learners at various proficiency levels. Many researchers have emphasized the importance of including extensive reading in foreign language curricula (e.g., Day & Bamford, 1998; Grabe, 1995; Krashen, 1982), and numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of extensive reading in contexts of English (or other languages) as a second language and as a foreign language (e.g., Elley & Mangubhai, 1981; Hitosugi & Day, 2004; Mason & Krashen, 1997). These researchers have asserted that extensive reading plays an important role in developing fluent second language (L2) readers because learners develop the ability to rapidly read large quantities of written material without using dictionaries. According to Smith (1997), learners can “learn to read by reading” (p. 105), a position that the above-mentioned studies support by showing positive effects of extensive reading on L2 reading ability and linguistic competence. These studies also indicate that extensive reading can favorably affect students’ attitudes toward reading in an L2.

In an effort to decrease Japanese students’ negative feelings toward studying English and improve their reading proficiency, I implemented an extensive reading program for second-year high school students. Contrary to my expectations and the outcomes of the studies mentioned above, not all participants responded eagerly to this new strategy. Although most participants displayed great enthusiasm for reading English, some students showed little or no interest in the program. As a result, the students’ participation, motivation, and confidence to read extensively varied significantly, and I observed a great disparity in the amount of reading that the students completed by the end of the program (Takase, 2002a). In this study, I have attempted to illuminate the factors that motivated some students to read more than others and allowed them to sustain their motivation throughout the program.

In educational psychology and reading education, researchers have conducted numerous studies on the role of motivation in L1 reading (e.g., Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000; McKenna, Kear, & Ellsworth, 1995; Wigfield, 1997; Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997). Wigfield (1997) argued that the domain-specific nature of motivational constructs such as beliefs, values, and goals influence reading motivation. According to Wigfield and Guthrie (1997), an important type of belief is self-efficacy. This is the idea that children seem to read more when they feel competent and efficacious at reading. Values, in their definition, encompass valuing for achievement, intrinsic-extrinsic motivation, and achievement goals, including performance goals (e.g., Will I look smart? or Can I beat others?) and learning goals (e.g., What will I learn?). Intrinsic motivation includes interest, enjoyment, and the direct involvement with one’s environment, “particularly under condition of novelty and freedom from other pressing demands of drives or emotions” (Deci & Ryan, 1985, p. 28). In terms of reading, intrinsic motivation can be explained as the state that Csikszenrmihalyi (1990) described as a flow experience, in which a reader becomes completely involved in reading. A number of researchers (Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000; Wigfield, 1997; Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997) have proposed that intrinsic motivation greatly facilitates readers’ engagement in reading. In addition, various researchers have found that the influence of home and family on children’s reading motivation is another important factor in the development of skilled L1 reading.

McKenna et al. (1995) conducted a national survey of 18,185 American children in grades 1 through 6 concerning their attitudes toward reading for recreational and academic purposes. The study showed that (a) students’ recreational and academic reading attitudes gradually moved from positive to indifferent; (b) negative recreational attitudes were related to ability, but academic attitudes were similarly negative regardless of ability; (c) girls had more favorable attitudes than boys for both recreational and academic reading, and the gap of girls’ recreational attitudes widened with age, whereas their academic reading attitudes remained constant; and (d) ethnicity differences were small or nonexistent.

While observing high school students engaged in extensive L2 reading, Takase (2001, 2002a, 2002b) found that the students’ motivation to read in an L2 differed from their motivation to read in their L1. The participants’ reading habits and the amount of reading that they completed in the L1 and L2 showed only a modest correlation at best (r = .35; Takase, 2001) and even a negative correlation in some cases (r = -.091; Takase, 2002b). Some motivated L1 readers were not motivated to read in the L2 and vice versa.

Concerning L2 reading, Day and Bamford (1998) have attempted to explain motivation to read in an L2 through their expectancy value model (Day & Bamford, 1998, p. 28). According to Day and Bamford, L2 reading motivation has two equal components: expectations and value. The expectancy value model is made up of four major variables that are hypothesized to influence the decision to read in an L2: (a) materials, (b) reading ability in the L2, (c) attitudes toward reading in the L2, and (d) sociocultural environment, including the influences of family and friends. Materials and reading ability are related to the expectation component of successful L2 reading, and attitudes and sociocultural environment are related to value component. Regarding the weight of the components, Day and Bramford stated that motivation to read in an L2 is strongly influenced by extensive reading materials and attitudes and less by reading ability and the sociocultural environment.

Mori (1999) was possibly the first researcher to investigate empirically Japanese university students’ motivation to read in English using Science Research Associates (SRA) reading materials. She administered to 52 students a questionnaire that asked about their motivation to read English and study English in general and about their task-specific (SRA reading material) motivation and investigated differences among them. She found intrinsic and extrinsic values in all three areas, whereas an attainment value emerged only in reading motivation and general English learning motivation. She also found that intrinsic, extrinsic, and attainment values had both positive and negative aspects in each case. To investigate the relationship between the motivational sub-factors and the amounts of reading, she performed a multiple-regression analysis. She found that three types of students read a relatively large amount: those who were grade-oriented and who liked reading, those who do not find it troublesome to go to the library to read, and those who liked the materials.

Although extensive reading has been researched using L1 learners and university-aged L2 learners, few studies have examined the effects of extensive reading using high school students. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate the following three questions:

  1. What are the components of L2 reading motivation for this sample of Japanese high school students?
  2. What components predict the high school students’ motivation to read English books?
  3. What is the relationship between the participants’ reading motivation and performance in Japanese and English?

Method

Participants

This study involved 219 second-year Japanese students in intact classes attending a private girls’ high school. Due to limited class size, data collection spanned 3 years. Data were gathered from three classes the first year and two classes during the second and third years. Each class consisted of 22 to 34 students. Participants were placed in the English course on the basis of placement test scores when they entered the high school. Prior to the start of the extensive reading program, participants had received at least four years of formal English education. The participants took nine 45-minute English classes per week: three English II classes (intensive reading or grammar translation), two reading classes (extensive reading and reading skills), two composition classes (grammar and translation), and two oral communication classes. Different teachers taught each class, and the researcher taught the reading class. The reading class met twice a week for 45 minutes each, and approximately 60 sessions made up one academic year.

The participants’ English reading proficiency levels ranged from beginning to high intermediate based on the results of the reading section of the Secondary Language English Proficiency (SLEP) test. The participants reported reading from 600 to 311,142 words in English (M = 71,653 words). The number of books that the participants read in their L1 during the academic year ranged from 0 to 350 (M = 27.6). Twenty-nine out of the 216 participants (13.4%) reported that they did not read any books in the L1, and 152 participants (70.4%) read less than one book 1 month, including the assigned books in their Japanese classes. The descriptive statistics for the participants’ reading in English and in Japanese are shown in Table 1, including pre- and post-SLEP test scores and questionnaire scores.

Table 1: Descriptive statistics of participants’ reading and questionnaire scores (N = 216)
MSDSEMMinimumMaximum
Total words in English71653.1138908.172647.37600311142
Japanese books10.0827.561.880350
Pre-SLEP35.07 (330)5.700.391850
Post-SLEP41.74 (400)6.560.451960
English questionnaire62.078.300.503683
Japanese questionnaire51.9812.360.842485
Note. Figures in parentheses roughly correspond to TOEFL scores.

Materials

Reading materials. The materials used for the extensive reading program were mainly graded readers from Cambridge, Heinemann, Longman, Oxford, and Penguin, with the levels ranging from 300 to 1,800 headwords. In addition to these readers, easy-reading books for high school students from several Japanese publishing companies were also used in the program (e.g., Kirihara Shoten, San’yusha, & Yamaguchi Shoten). Approximately 500 books were available in the first year and about 100 books were purchased each subsequent year. By the end of the study, approximately 700 books were available to students. Approximately 100 books were kept in each classroom, and these books were exchanged with books from other classes after each semester to give the participants access to a variety of books. The remaining books were placed in the school library for students to use at anytime.

As the students engaged primarily in extensive reading outside the classroom, rapid reading and reading comprehension skills were practiced in the classroom using such textbooks as True Stories in the News (1996), More True Stories (1996), Reading Power (1986), and Reading Power: Introductory (1995).

Motivational questionnaire. A 5-point Likert-scale questionnaire was constructed based on studies in the field of L2 learning (Gardner, 1985; Koizumi & Matsuo, 1993; Schmidt, Boraie & Kassabgy, 1996; Yoneyama, 1979) and educational psychology (Wigfield, 1997). Original questions by the researcher were also included (as reported by Takase, 2001). The questionnaire consisted of two sections. Section I was made up of 27 items related to motivation and attitudes toward reading in the L2 (Appendices A & B), and Section II was made up of 18 questions related to motivation and attitudes and parent and family influences on reading in the L1 (Appendices C & D).

Procedure

The first several classroom sessions were used to orientate students to extensive reading by instructing them on how to choose books, read extensively, write summaries, and fill out the book record. The duration of each extensive reading treatment was one academic year, approximately 11 months, and individual reading mainly occurred outside the classroom. Participants were required to write a summary of each book that they read. A class monitor collected and delivered summary notebooks to the researcher every week. To facilitate summary writing and encourage the participants to read with less pressure, students were assigned to write their summaries in their L1 (Japanese) during the first term, and were encouraged to write summaries in the L2 (English) after summer vacation, approximately 5 months after the onset of the program. Students were also required to complete a book record (Appendix E) to track their reading throughout the treatment. Book summaries and the book records counted as 10% of the students’ course grades.

Approximately one month after the participants began the extensive reading program, they completed Sections I and II of the questionnaire. Because extensive reading was a new strategy to the participants, they needed time to read several books before completing the questionnaire.

Data Analyses

Prior to the analyses, all data were screened as follows. First, the means and the standard deviations for all the variables were examined for skewness and kurtosis using z-scores. One variable, the number of books read in the L1, was found to be positively skewed (z = 9.385) because many students reported reading no books in their L1. This variable was retained, however, so that its relationship with variables such as the amount of reading in the L2 could be determined.

Second, the data were examined for univariate outliers using SPSS regression. Four cases with z scores in excess of 3.29 were found. These participants reported reading 1000, 500, 500, and 350 books in the L1 during the treatment. The first three participants were eliminated from the study, but the fourth participant, whose z score of 3.86 only slightly exceeded the criterion of 3.29, was kept in the study.

Finally, Cronbach’s alpha was calculated to estimate the reliability of Sections I and II of the questionnaire. The reliability estimates were α = .781 and α = .876 respectively.

The results of the reading, pre- and post-SLEP test scores, and questionnaire scores were analyzed using SPSS 9.0. First, Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients were calculated to determine the relationships among all the variables with a focus on the amount of reading (the number of English words read), number of books read in the L1 and the L2 during the treatment, pre- and post-SLEP test scores, and questionnaire scores. Second, a principal components analysis with Varimax rotation was performed using the results of Sections I and II of the questionnaire to determine the items that formed common components in this particular context. Third, a stepwise multiple regression analysis was computed with the factor scores of the questionnaire acting as predictors and the amount of reading in English as the dependent variable. The purpose was to investigate which factors were the strongest predictors of the participants’ motivation to read English books.

Results

First, to determine the relationships among all the variables, Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients were calculated for the amount of reading in the L2 (the number of English words read), number of books in the L1 and the L2 read during the treatment, pre- and post-SLEP test scores, and questionnaire raw scores (Table 2).

Table 2: Relationship among reading data, SLEP tests, and questionnaire scores (N = 216)
1234567
1. Total English words--.618**.080.004.247**.128.105
2. English books ---.093-.161*.020.216**-.003
3. Japanese books  --.172*.183**.020.250**
4. Pre-SLEP   --.419**.038.036
5. Post-SLEP    ---.002-.018
6. English questionnaire     --.246**
7. Japanese questionnaire      --
Note. *p < .05, ** p < .01.

As shown in Table 2, the amount of reading that the participants did in English (total English words) significantly correlated with the post SLEP test scores at the p = .0l level. The number of books read in the L1 significantly correlated with the pre-SLEP test scores at the p = .05 level and the post-SLEP test scores at the p = .01 level. In contrast to the amount of reading completed in English, the number of books read in Japanese had a statistically significant correlation only with the questionnaire concerning motivation for reading in the L1, p = .01. The pre- and post-SLEP test scores significantly correlated at the p = .01 level, and the questionnaire concerning motivation for reading in the L2 significantly correlated with that of reading in the L1.

Principal Components Analysis

To answer the research question (regarding the components of L2 reading motivation for the Japanese high school students), a principal components analysis (PCA) was performed using SPSS 9.0 on the 27 items of Section I (motivation for reading in the L2) of the questionnaire and the 18 items of Section II (motivation for reading in the L1). The number of factors to be extracted was based on the following criteria: each factor contained individual items with a minimum eigenvalue of 1.0, and the cutoff for size of each loading was set at .45 (Tabachnick & Fidell; 1996) to obtain purer components. The point in the scree plot where the slope changed was also considered. The reliability of each factor was estimated using Cronbach’s alpha.

Six components were extracted, which accounted for 51.38% of the total variance in the motivation subset of reading in the L1 and the L2. Items E8, E10, E11, E18, and E23 from Section I and Item J14 from Section II were eliminated from the analysis because they had loadings of less than .45. The results of the PCA are summarized in Table 3.

Table 3: Component loadings and communalities (h2) for motivation for reading in the L1 and the L2 according to the PCA of the questionnaire
Factor loadingsh2
#ItemF1F2F3F4F5F6F7
Component 1: Intrinsic motivation for L1 reading (α = .85)
J3I carry a book everywhere I go..78.11.18.00.06.00.05.66
J4I don't mind being kept waiting if I have a book with me..77.10.03.04-.01-.05.09.61
J2I prefer books to TV..76.10.15.00.15.05-.14.65
J1I like reading books in Japanese..68-.07.28.07.07-.02-.36.68
J15I read a newspaper every day..64-.12.08-.07.08.17.10.48
J5I often use school or public libraries..64-.05.16.12.10.11.23.53
J6I go to big bookstores when I go shopping..46.24.30-.02-.01-.03.33.47
Component 2: Intrinsic motivation for L2 reading (α = .77)
E3I enjoy reading English books..13.75-.02.10.18-.07.05.64
E2Reading English books is my hobby..01.72.11.03-.01.24-.07.59
E1Of all English studies, I like reading best.-.03.68.11.06.08-.10-.21.54
E15I am reading English books to become more knowledgeable..06.66.14.16.00-.02.33.60
E7I am reading English books because it is required.-.02.61-.11-.05-.11.13.24.47
E16I am reading English books to compete with my classmates..10.46.03.36-.07-.07-.05.36
Component 3: Parents' involvement in and family attitudes toward reading (α = .82)
J12My parents took me to the library when I was little..15.03.79.04.10-.02-.16.68
J11My parents buy me books whenever I ask..16.13.69-.09-.06.06.07.54
J10My family talks about books..14-.07.69.17.04.13-.04.54
J8My family reads a lot..10.13.65.11-.02.01-.05.47
J13My parents bought me books when I was little..11-.03.62.06-.04.15.13.44
J7Reading is important to broaden my view..03.09.62.04-.03-.09.10.41
J9My parents encourage me to read..39.11.57-.06.21-.09.05.55
Component 4: Entrance exam-related extrinsic motivation (α = .77)
E5I am reading English books to succeed on the entrance examination..08-.09.10.77-.06.08.09.64
E4I am reading English books to get better grades..11-.02.14.64-.09-.09.08.46
E6I am reading English books because I will need to read English in college or a university.-.09.01.01.59.23.16-.15.46
E9I am reading English books to become able to read long passages on the entrance exam easily..04.20-.02.59-.04.25-.21.50
E12I am learning English reading because I want to get a better job in the future.-.23.01.05.51.32.21-.13.48
E17I am reading English to become more intelligent..06.34.18.50.02.12.25.48
E22I don't like to be disturbed while reading English books..21.07-.09.48.04.12.01.31
E21I want to be a better reader.-.25.04.04.48.02.00.19.33
E20I am reading English books to become a faster reader..02.30.02.46.17.12-.20.39
Component 5: Fondness for written materials (α = .77)
J18I read ads even if I am not interested in them..44-.02-.06.04.72-.11.06.73
J17I prefer newspapers to TV for information..46-.02-.04.04.71-.13.08.75
E19I want to know more about English speaking countries..11.36-.02.17.51.13-.40.60
Component 6: Internet-related instrumental motivation (α = .77) &
negative attitude toward extensive reading (α = .45)
E25*I like intensive reading better than extensive reading.-.24.06-.06-.07.15-.55.16.42
E14I am learning English reading because I want to exchange e-mail in English..-.14.31.15.18.33.53-.16.58
E13I am learning English reading because I want to read information in English on the Internet.-.07.29.27-.01.39.51.13.59
E24*I want to look up new words in a dictionary while I am reading.-.23-.08.02-.20.17-.50-.04.38
E27*I like listening to English better than reading it..07-.08.07-.22-.03-.49.10.32
E26*The speaking skill is more important than the reading skill..10.14-.04.05-.01-.32.64.55
J16I prefer original stories to movies based on the stories..48.20.18-.05.20.10.49.59
 Total4.703.953.903.722.542.252.05 
 Proportion of variance.10.09.09.08.06.05.05 
 % of variance10.448.798.678.275.635.004.56 
Note. Items with * were reverse-coded.

Component 1 (α = .85) received strong loadings from seven items from Section II of the questionnaire concerning motivation for reading in the L1. The first four items (J3, J4, J2, & J1) were related to intrinsic motivation, Item J15 suggested a fondness for written material, and Items J5 and J6 indicated a fondness for books or reading. Thus, Component 1 was labeled intrinsic motivation for L1 reading.

Component 2 (α = .77) received loadings from six items (E3, E2, E1, E15, E7, & E16) in Section I of the questionnaire concerning motivation to read in the L2. The first three items (E3, E2, & E1), which had the strongest loadings, were related to intrinsic motivation. Item 7 sounds contradictory to the idea of intrinsic motivation. However, the participants who did not enjoy reading read a small amount regardless of the requirement because extensive reading accounted for only 10% of their final grade. Thus, Component 2 was labeled intrinsic motivation for L2 reading.

Seven items from Section II concerning L1 reading loaded on Component 3 (α = .82). Six of the items (J12, J11, J10, J8, J13, & J9) concerned the attitudes and involvement of parents and family, and one item (J7) showed a sense of attainment. Thus, Component 3 was called parents’ involvement in and family attitudes toward reading.

Nine items from Section I concerning L2 reading loaded on Component 4 (α = .77). Two items (E5 & E9) were directly related to university entrance examinations, and Items E4, E21, and E20 all lead to success on university entrance examinations. Thus, Component 4 was named entrance exam-related extrinsic motivation.

Component 5 received loadings from three items (α = .77). The two items with the strongest loadings (J18 & J17) were related to fondness for written materials in the L1. Therefore, Component 5 was named fondness for written materials. However, both Items J17 (I prefer newspapers to TV for information) and J18 (I read ads even if I am not interested in them) also loaded on Component 1 (.46 and .44 respectively), indicating that intrinsic motivation and fondness for written materials share common features.

Component 6 received positive loadings from two items and negative loadings from three items. When the items that had positive and negative loadings were calculated separately, the reliability estimates were α = .77 for E14 and E13 and α = .45 for E25, E24, and E27. The two items that loaded positively were related to use of the Internet. The other three items concerned negative attitudes toward extensive reading. Therefore, Component 6 was named internet-related instrumental motivation and negative attitude toward extensive reading.

The two items (E26 & J16) that loaded on Components 7 seem to have little in common. In addition, Item J16 was complex because it loaded on Component 1 (intrinsic motivation for L1 reading) at .48 and Factor 7 at .49. Compared to the first six factors, the reliability estimate was low (α = .45). Therefore, this component was eliminated from the interpretation.

Multiple Regression Analysis

To answer the second research question of what components predict the high school students’ motivation to read English books, a stepwise multiple regression analysis was performed. The dependent variable was the total number of words that the students read in English during the treatment, and the independent variables were the factor scores from the six components described above. The analysis was performed to determine which of the six components best predicted students’ motivation to read English books. In the forward stepwise regression, variables were entered based on statistical criteria (i.e., the variables with the highest correlation with the dependent variable were entered one by one).

Table 4: Summary of multiple regression analysis for variables predicting motivation to read (N = 212)
VariableBSE Bβ
Step 1   
     Intrinsic motivation for L2 reading7357.802635.44.19**
Step 2   
     Intrinsic motivation for L2 reading7357.802612.03.19**
     Intrinsic motivation for L1 reading5722.402612.03.15*
Note. R2 = .04 for Step 1 (p < .01); ΔR2 = .06 for Step 2 (p < .05).

To answer the third research question of what relationship exists between the participants’ reading motivation and performance in Japanese and English, Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients were calculated. As shown in Table 2, the correlations between the amount of reading in Japanese and English were r = .08 for the number of books read in Japanese and the words read in English, and r = -.09 for the number of books read in Japanese and in English.

Discussion

Motivational Components of Reading

The first research question concerned the identification of motivational factors for reading in the L2. Six components were identified using PCA (Table 3). The first and the second components, intrinsic motivation for L1 reading and intrinsic motivation for L2 reading, correspond to what Mori (1999; 2002) labeled positive intrinsic value or intrinsic value of reading (e.g., I like reading English novels), indicating a love of reading. The third component, parents’ involvement in and family attitudes toward reading, indicates that the participants’ parents actively influenced their daughters’ reading habits. The fourth component, entrance exam-related extrinsic motivation, was unique to this research because the participants were expecting to take university entrance examinations in a year. However, the fourth component also encompasses items concerning instrumentality, which refers to “consequences that might arise from the mastery of the L2 English” (Dörnyei, 2001, p. 124). That is, students can study English as a means to achieve other goals for which the knowledge of English plays a role. In Japan one such goal would be to pass a university entrance examination. This component corresponds to what Mori (2002) called extrinsic utility value (e.g., By learning to read in English, I hope to be able to read English newspapers and magazines).

Considering the similar educational backgrounds of the participants and that the studies were conducted in the same English-as-a-foreign-language context, I had assumed that some of the components found in Mori’s (2002) study of university students would apply to the high school students in this study. However, the students’ motivation to read in the present study should differ from motivation of the university students in Mori’s study in some significant aspects. First, the participants of the present study were to face the entrance examination in a year or so, whereas Mori’s studies targeted college and university students who had already passed a university entrance examination. Having gone through entrance examinations, college and university students are more likely to be motivated by factors other than exam-related instrumental motivation (Takanashi, 1991), whereas a major reason the Japanese high school students study English is to pass the examinations (Koizumi & Matsuo, 1993; Tachibana, Matsukawa, & Zhong, 1996; Yoneyama, 1979), which is an expectation placed upon them by the society as a whole, including their parents and teachers. Two further differences between the two studies were the reading materials and the places where the extensive reading took place. Mori’s participants were assigned to read SRA materials in the library, whereas the participants of the present study had the freedom to choose their own books and the places where they would read. As Day and Bamford (1998) and Sakai (2002) mentioned, materials play a crucial role in motivating learners to extensively read in an L2.

Predictors of Motivation for the Participants to Read

The second research question concerned the identification of predictors of motivation for the participants to read books in English. The two statistically significant predictors are intrinsic motivation for L2 reading and intrinsic motivation for L1 reading. Entrance exam-related extrinsic motivation and parents’ involvement in and family attitudes toward reading did not emerge as statistically significant predictors. The result concerning the second predictor agrees with the findings of Baker and Wigfield (1999) and Wigfield and Guthrie (1997), who reported in their studies on the L1 reading motivation of elementary school children that intrinsic motivation more strongly predicted the amount and breadth of reading than did extrinsic motivation. However, in Mori’s (1999) study of Japanese learners of English, positive intrinsic value did not contribute significantly to the prediction of variance in the amount of reading, a finding that may be attributable to the reading materials (SRA) that were used in that study. Some of the participants may not have perceived SRA reading as enjoyable, but as part of their course work in which they did not have the freedom of choice and which had to be completed within a limited time and at a specific place. In contrast, the freedom to choose what to read and where to read it seems to have contributed positively to the participants’ motivation in the present study. This result accords with Day and Bamford’s (1998) claim that motivation to read in an L2 is strongly influenced by the reading materials.

The Relationship Between L1 Reading and L2 Reading

The third research question concerned the relationship between the L1 and L2 reading habits of the participants. First, I attempted to investigate the similarities and differences between motivation for L1 reading and L2 reading. The two strongest components that emerged were intrinsic motivation for L2 reading and intrinsic motivation for L1 reading. Similar results were reported by Baker and Wigfield (1999) and Wigfield and Guthrie (1997) in their L1 reading studies of elementary school children in the sense that intrinsic motivation emerged as the strongest factor. These studies suggest that intrinsic motivation is the most powerful factor for motivating learners of any age to read books in both their L1 and L2.

Another notable point is that parents’ involvement in and family attitudes toward reading (e.g., My parents took me to the library when I was little) emerged as the second strongest component of L1 reading (see Table 3). This component is similar to social aspects of motivation (e.g., I visit the library often with my family) in the above-mentioned studies by Baker and Wigfield (1999) and Wigfield and Guthrie (1997). However, parents’ involvement in and family attitudes toward reading was not a statistically significant predictor of the amount of L2 reading completed by the participants. This may have occurred because high school students aged 16 to 18 are, in general, more independent and less attached to their parents and family than the elementary school children previously researched in a number of L1 reading studies.

Some students in this study were motivated to read in English because doing so attracted the attention of students from other high schools when they were using public transportation. Reading a book in English was an activity that made them feel cool. This is what Wigfield and Guthrie (1997) defined as a performance goal (e.g., Will I look smart?), which leads learners to “seek to maximize favorable evaluation of their ability” (p. 421). Thus, parents’ encouragement and performance goals positively affected some participants’ motivation to read English, a finding that corresponds to the results of previous studies on L1 reading (e.g., Baker, Scher & Mackler, 1997).

Almost no relationship (r = .08) was found between the participants’ L1 and L2 reading performance. Interviews with so-called bookworms, including the three outliers, revealed that their L1 reading habits did not influence their L2 English reading (see Takase, 2002b, 2004, for more details). When they were completely involved in reading Japanese books, they lost track of time and self-awareness and experienced the flow situation described by Csikszentmihalyi (1990). They reported that they could not abandon the enjoyment that they experienced when reading in Japanese and shift to the effortful and less enjoyable experience of reading in English. Thus, to continue being able to read large amounts in the L1, they fulfilled only the minimum requirements of the extensive reading program, and some participants even ignored the requirement and continued reading Japanese books.

In contrast, the participants who were motivated to read English books throughout the year seemed to have considered reading in the L1 and in the L2 as distinctively different experiences. Takase (2004) reported that follow-up interviews revealed that many participants stopped reading in their L1 towards the end of their elementary school years and early junior high school years due to their involvement in spending time with friends, enjoying club activities at school, attending cram schools in the evening, etc., which accords with Guthrie and Wigfield’s (2000) finding that children’s reading motivation shifts across the middle childhood and early adolescent years. In the case of the participants in the present study, however, English was considered a high priority subject because of its importance for university entrance examinations; therefore, this factor very likely affected their L1 reading more than their L2 reading. Takase also reported that some of the most enthusiastic readers in the L2 were initially motivated by the novelty of the task, including interesting materials, freedom to choose books, and task independence, then, a sense of joy, accomplishment, and self-confidence followed that sustained their motivation throughout the year. Many of the participants seemed to have both intrinsic motivation and a developing sense of self-efficacy. However, they never redeveloped good reading habits in Japanese, and a negative correlation was found between their reading in English and Japanese (Table 2), which indicates that their intrinsic motivation was limited to L2 reading. Thus, a positive relationship between L1 reading motivation and L2 reading motivation was not identified.

Conclusion

The participants had multidimensional motivation with strong intrinsic motivation for L1 reading, intrinsic motivation for L2 reading, parents’ involvement in and family attitudes toward reading, and entrance exam-related extrinsic motivation. The best predictors of reading books in the L2 were intrinsic motivation for L2 reading and intrinsic motivation for L1 reading. However, reading performance in the L1 and L2 did not correlate partly because of the insufficient L2 reading proficiency of some of the most voracious readers of Japanese books. On the other hand, participants who had not developed positive L1 reading habits experienced a great sense of joy and accomplishment after finishing an entire English book, and this feeling sustained their reading in the L2 throughout the year. However, this sense of joy and accomplishment was limited to L2 reading and did not influence L1 reading motivation.

This study is subject to several limitations. First, it may have limited generalizability because the participants are from a homogeneous group in terms of L1, age, gender, and educational experiences. In addition, because the participants were enrolled in a special English course, many of them were more highly motivated than Japanese students in regular courses. A second limitation concerns the research design. Because the participants were from three consecutive years, their environment for extensive reading slightly differed each year. For instance, the number of books available for the participants increased, and a wider range of levels was supplied every year. The greater abundance of reading material along with easier levels of readers may have caused some differences in the participants’ motivation to read.

Despite the limitations, this study contributes to an understanding of what motivates students to engage in extensive reading, an instructional strategy that is not yet recognized by most Japanese high school teachers. I believe that this approach to teaching reading may help many students regain the self-confidence and interest in English that they possessed when they first began studying. This study also sheds light on the way that extensive reading promotes students’ English acquisition, especially in the area of reading competence. If extensive reading is implemented in junior and senior high school English programs, students can feel a greater sense of joy in reading English and acquire English more naturally and at a greater speed.

References

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Appendix A

Japanese questions about reading in English

Appendix B

Motivational Questionnaire (Reading in English)
(Translated form of Appendix A)

  1. Of all English studies, I like reading best.
  2. Reading English is my hobby.
  3. I enjoy reading English books.
  4. I am reading English books to get better grades.
  5. I am reading English books to succeed on the entrance examination.
  6. I am reading English books because I will need to read English in college or a university.
  7. I am reading English books because it is required.
  8. My parents suggest that I read English books.
  9. I am reading English books to become able to read long passages on the entrance exam easily.
  10. Reading English books helps me to understand and appreciate English literature.
  11. I am learning English reading because I want to read newspapers and magazines in English.
  12. I am learning English reading because I want to get a better job in the future.
  13. I am learning English reading because I want to read information in English on the Internet.
  14. I am learning English reading because I want to exchange e-mail in English.
  15. I am reading English books to become more knowledgeable.
  16. I am reading English books to compete with my classmates.
  17. I am reading English to become more intelligent.
  18. Reading English books will broaden my view.
  19. I want to know more about English-speaking countries.
  20. I am reading English books to become a faster reader.
  21. I want to be a better reader.
  22. I don’t like to be disturbed while reading English books.
  23. I don’t like to read English books that have difficult words.
  24. I want to look up new words in the dictionary while I am reading.
  25. I like intensive reading better than extensive reading.
  26. The speaking skill is more important than the reading skill.
  27. I like listening to English better than reading it.

Appendix C

Japanese questions about reading in Japanese

Appendix D

Motivational Questionnaire (Reading in Japanese)
(Translated form of Appendix C)

  1. I like reading books in Japanese.
  2. I prefer books to TV.
  3. I carry a book everywhere I go.
  4. I don’t mind being kept waiting if I have a book with me.
  5. I often use school or public libraries.
  6. I go to big bookstores when I go shopping.
  7. Reading is important to broaden my view.
  8. My family reads a lot.
  9. My parents encourage me to read.
  10. My family talks about books.
  11. My parents buy me books whenever I ask.
  12. My parents took me to the library when I was little.
  13. My parents bought me books when I was little.
  14. My parents (or other family members) read me books when I was little.
  15. I read a newspaper every day.
  16. I prefer original stories to movies based on the stories.
  17. I prefer newspapers to TV for information.
  18. I read ads even if I am not interested in them.

Appendix E

Extensive Reading Book Record ( No.    )
 ClassNo.Name
 DateBook No.Name of BookPublisherLevel /HeadwordNumber of PagesNumber of WordsTotal WordsTime SpentDifficulty*Interest**No.of Words Used Dic.Reason You Chose
1             
2             
3             
4             
5             
6             
7             
8             
9             
10             
11             
12             
13             
14             
15             
16             
17             
18             
19             
20             
*Criteria of Difficulty: 5 = very difficult, 4 = difficult, 3 = a little difficult, 2 = a little easy, 1 = very easy
**Criteria of Interest: 5 = very interesting, 4 = interesting, 3 = a little interesting, 2 = not very interesting, 1 = not at all interesting

About the Author

Atsuko Takase teaches at Baika High School, Kansai University, Kinki University, and Osaka International University as a lecturer. Her research interests include extensive reading, listening, shadowing, and CALL. She has used extensive reading with high school students for nine years and with university students for five years. E-mail: atsukot@jttk.zaq.ne.jp

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