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Ask a REL Response

Reading motivation in middle school students — April 2019


Could you provide research on the factors influencing reading motivation in middle school students?


Following an established REL West research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and resources on factors influencing reading motivation in middle school students. The sources included ERIC, Google Scholar, and PsychInfo. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched for references through the most commonly used sources of research, but the list is not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance.

Research References

Guthrie, J. T., Klauda, S. L., & Ho, A. N. (2013). Modeling the relationships among reading instruction, motivation, engagement, and achievement for adolescents. Reading Research Quarterly, 48(1), 9–26. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “This study modeled the interrelationships of reading instruction, motivation, engagement, and achievement in two contexts, employing data from 1,159 seventh graders. In the traditional reading/language arts (R/LA) context, all students participated in traditional R/LA instruction. In the intervention R/LA context, 854 students from the full sample received Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction (CORI) while the remainder continued to receive traditional R/LA. CORI emphasizes support for reading motivation, reading engagement, and cognitive strategies for reading informational text. Seven motivation constructs were included: four motivations that are usually positively associated with achievement (intrinsic motivation, self-efficacy, valuing, and prosocial goals) and three motivations that are usually negatively associated with achievement (perceived difficulty, devaluing, and antisocial goals). Reading engagement was also represented by positive and negative constructs, namely dedication to and avoidance of reading. Gender, ethnicity, and income were statistically controlled in all analyses. In the traditional R/LA context, a total network model prevailed, in which motivation was associated with achievement both directly and indirectly through engagement. In contrast, in the intervention R/LA context, a dual-effects model prevailed, in which engagement and achievement were separate outcomes of instruction and motivation. The intervention R/LA context analyses revealed that CORI was associated with positive changes in motivation, engagement, and achievement relative to traditional R/LA instruction. The discussion explains why there were different relations in the two instructional contexts and demonstrates the importance of simultaneously examining both positive (affirming) and negative (undermining) forms of motivation and engagement.”

Mucherah, W., & Yoder, A. (2008). Motivation for reading and middle school students’ performance on standardized testing in reading. Reading Psychology, 29, 214–235. Retrieved from’_Performance_on_Standardized_Testing_in_Reading

From the abstract: “This study examined middle school students’ reading motivation and its relations to their performance on a standardized test (ISTEP+) in reading. Participants included 388 sixth- and eighth-grade students from two public middle schools. There were 229 females and 159 males. Participants responded to the Reading Motivation Questionnaire after they had completed the ISTEP+ test. Results showed that students who had high self-efficacy in their reading, read challenging material, and read for aesthetic enjoyment did better on the ISTEP+ test. Students who read mostly for social reasons did poorly on the ISTEP+ test. Grade, gender, and racial differences were found.”

Pennington, S. E. (2017). Motivation, needs support, and language arts classroom practices: Creation and validation of a measure of young adolescents’ perceptions. Research in Middle Level Education Online, 40(9), 1–19. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Early adolescence is a critical time for examining academic motivation, specifically motivation to read. To support self-determined motivation to read, students’ needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness must be met within the classroom context. Because classroom instructional practices are a key component of adolescents’ daily experiences in the classroom, research that investigates the influence of these practices on students’ intrinsic motivation to read is needed. In addition, the perceptions of students regarding the degree to which classroom instructional practices meet students’ needs as well as the influence of classroom instructional practices on students’ motivation to read should be considered. The field is lacking an established measure of early adolescents’ perceptions of classroom instructional practices and the degree to which they support students’ needs (i.e., competence, autonomy) and intrinsic motivation to read. This study, guided by self-determination theory, sought to address this gap in the literature by developing and validating a measure called the Language Arts Reading Practices Survey (LARPS). This measure assessed student perceptions of the degree to which classroom instructional practices in the language arts classroom support students’ needs for competence, autonomy, and students’ self-determined motivation to read. The results of this study provide preliminary support for the validity of the LARPS.”

Schiefele, U., & Schaffner, E. (2016). Factorial and construct validity of a new instrument for the assessment of reading motivation. Reading Research Quarterly, 51(2), 221–237. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Reading motivation has been defined consistently as a multidimensional construct. However, there is some disagreement regarding the number and nature of the dimensions of reading motivation. In particular, there is a lack of studies investigating the dimensional structure and measurement invariance (e.g., across gender) of reading motivation questionnaires. Based on earlier instruments, qualitative findings referring to students’ reasons for reading, and theoretical considerations, we developed the Reading Motivation Questionnaire (RMQ). A sample of 883 sixth-grade students was presented with 34 reading motivation items pertaining to seven dimensions. Five of these dimensions (i.e., curiosity, involvement, grades, competition, social recognition) referred to Wigfield and Guthrie’s Motivations for Reading Questionnaire, whereas two dimensions (i.e., emotional regulation, relief from boredom) were based on recent qualitative findings. The results from confirmatory factor analyses supported the hypothesized factor structure. In addition, three higher order factors were identified: intrinsic, extrinsic, and regulatory reading motivation. Moreover, strict measurement invariance across female and male students and across groups with low versus high reading competence was established. Construct validity of the RMQ was supported by the contributions of the RMQ factors to reading amount, fluency, and comprehension and by the predicted gender differences in the dimensions of reading motivation.”

Troyer, M. (2017). A mixed-methods study of adolescents’ motivation to read. Teachers College Record, 119(5). Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Background: Research has shown that reading motivation is correlated with achievement. Studying motivation in older students is particularly important as reading motivation declines over the course of elementary and middle school. However, current research largely fails to reflect the nuance and complexity of reading motivation, or its variation within and across contexts. Purpose: This mixed-methods study investigates whether distinct reading motivation/achievement profiles exist for adolescents and what key levers foster adolescents’ motivation to read. This approach was designed to produce more generalizable results than isolated case studies, while providing a more nuanced picture than survey research alone. Research Design: Seventh graders (n = 68) at two diverse public charter schools serving low-income students were surveyed regarding reading motivation and attitude. A cluster analysis of survey results and reading achievement data was conducted. One student per cluster was selected from each school for additional qualitative analysis (n = 8), and students and teachers (n = 2) were observed and interviewed. In addition, cross-case and cross-school analyses were conducted to determine key levers which may promote students’ motivation to read. Conclusions: This study suggests that four distinct reading achievement/motivation profiles may exist. In addition, teachers have substantial influence on adolescents’ motivation to read. Teachers could benefit from gathering more information about students’ reading motivation and from promoting feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness.”

Wigfield, A., Gladstone, J., & Turci, L. (2016). Beyond cognition: Reading motivation and reading comprehension. Child Development Perspectives, 10(3), 190–195. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “The authors review research on children’s reading motivation and its relation to their reading comprehension. They begin by discussing work on the development of school motivation in general and reading motivation in particular, reviewing work showing that many children’s reading motivation declines over the school years. Girls tend to have more positive motivation for reading than do boys, and there are ethnic differences in children’s reading motivation. Over the last 15 years researchers have identified in both laboratory and classroom-based research instructional practices that positively impact students’ reading motivation and ultimately their reading comprehension. There is a strong need for researchers to build on this work and develop and study in different age groups of children effective classroom-based reading motivation instructional programs for a variety of narrative and informational materials.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

“Reading motivation” AND (“middle school” OR “adolescents”)

Databases and Resources

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.   

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching and selecting resources to include, we consider the criteria listed below.

  • Date of the Publication: References and resources published since 2000, were included in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations and academic databases. Priority is also given to sources that provide free access to the full article.
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study designs, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, and we may also include descriptive data analyses, survey results, mixed-methods studies, literature reviews, or meta-analyses. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality. Priority is given to publications that are peer-reviewed journal articles or reports reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations. If there are many research reports available, we select those with the strongest methodology, or the most recent of similar reports. When there are fewer resources available, we may include a broader range of information.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the West Region (Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory West at WestEd. This memorandum was prepared by REL West under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0012, administered by WestEd. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.