Exploring reading attitudes and habits of pre-service teachers responsible for early literacy development

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Boshoff, Elani
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University of the Free State
Reading is a crucial part of academic study and scholastic performance. Strong reading skills, which entail positive reading attitudes and robust reading habits, are needed to facilitate learning. Teachers, in particular, need to have a love for reading and regular reading habits themselves to be influential role models for their learners. However, studies show that, although pre-service teachers believe reading is important and/or beneficial, they do not maintain strong reading habits themselves, and they do not see reading as pleasurable. Such teachers may struggle to impart to their future learners positive reading attitudes that they themselves do not have. This study focused on pre-service teachers because they are uniquely positioned to reveal current reading attitudes cultivated by South African schools, and because they still have the opportunity to develop positive reading attitudes during their teacher training. The cohort includes pre-service teachers who are training to become Foundation or Intermediate Phase teachers; thus, the title of the study refers to pre-service teachers who will be responsible for early literacy development. The study aimed to learn about pre-service teachers’ reading attitudes and habits, and underlying reasons for them. To do this, insights were gained from a thorough literature study on reading as a cognitive process, the development of reading attitudes and habits, reader-text transaction types, and instructional approaches for meaningful reading practices within a Humanist and Social Reformist curricular philosophy. For the purposes of exploring the reading attitudes and habits of pre-service teachers responsible for teaching young learners, the English Reading Attitude Survey (ERAS) was developed as the data collection instrument. Key findings were that although most of the pre-service teachers expressed positive reading attitudes, their reading attitudes do not align with their reading practices, and they do not engage in extensive or pleasure reading. The cohort’s reading habits can be described as efferent rather than aesthetic; they seem not to focus on a love for reading and a regular reading habit for its own sake — rather, many think of reading as a necessary obstacle that must be overcome for academic purposes such as completing assignments. They read texts associated with their course work rather than literary works that could provide educational and personal benefits. Although many mentioned the value of literature in education to acquire knowledge and develop language proficiency, very few mentioned the need for teachers to read often or have a love for reading. Moreover, most were not encouraged to engage in meaningful ways with literature at school. They were taught with rote learning techniques in which learners were expected to memorise teachers’ notes instead of generating their own ideas and interpretations. It is possible that the lack of personal and meaningful engagement with literature texts is a cause for their lack of extensive and pleasure reading. The results of the survey also revealed a concerning prevalence of reading anxiety amongst the cohort of pre-service teachers. Participants indicated that they struggle to understand what they read, which may affect their studies negatively, given the amount of reading students are expected to do at university. Interestingly, participants showed a strong preference for printed texts. The fact that much of their academic reading is done through digital modes, via the Internet or through online learning management systems, may be a contributing factor to reading anxiety. Responsible design principles in applied linguistics remind us that the efficacy of our solutions is more important than their trendiness. If we wish to establish healthy reading attitudes and habits, digital reading modes may not always be the best tool to facilitate engagement with literature in classrooms. Recommendations based on the findings include prioritising reading literacy education in teacher training programs, as well as foregrounding the literature component of language curricula. Pre-service teachers need to be made aware of their example as reading role models, and they should also be given opportunities to nurture their own reading attitudes and habits during their training. They need to be equipped with the tools and techniques necessary to teach their future learners important reading skills, while encouraging a love for reading and the development of robust reading habits.
Dissertation (M.A. (English Language Studies))--University of the Free State, 2023
reading, literacy, reading attitudes, reading habits, pre-service teachers