Zofia Zasacka Reading Satisfaction: Implications of Research on Adolescents' Reading Habits and Attitudes

The Pleasures of Reading — Forms of Reading Engagement — Theoretical Contexts

The studies on youth reading habits and attitudes on which this article is based fall within the empirical research tradition of the Institute of the
Book and Reading, where reading is understood as a social practice linked to cultural norms and patterns at a particular time and place, as well as to readers’ social roles.10 This is a socio-cultural approach focused on the social factors shaping reading practice, taking into account its situational and functional volatility.11 In terms of cultural anthropology and social science, reading practice is also understood as the related habitus, an internalised universe of cultural experience attributed to literacy skills.

A reader undertakes reading at a certain point in their reading biography, with a particular horizon of expectations in mind. Hans Robert Jauss
suggests a reader’s literary experience should be sought wherever it “fits within the horizon of expectations pertaining to the reader’s living practice, informs the very basis of how they understand the world, thus influencing their social behaviour”.12 By starting to read within a particular social and cultural context, the reader adopts an active attitude, and creates meanings through reading.13 According to the popular culture theorist John Fiske,14 what matters is the kind of “use” the reader makes of the texts they read, how they process them, what kind of pleasure they find in reading. While reading, the reader looks for reference and guidance that would be useful in their own life, adapting and processing information in accordance with their needs, “poaches on the text”, as Michel de Certeau15 put it, “constructs meanings” based on their own expectations or anticipation of what they can, are able to, and want to find in the text.

Since reading requires more effort and concentration than many other activities,16 the reasons why it is undertaken are of key importance. Even a person with highly developed cognitive and reading skills may not be willing to read if they can do something else or use other media such as TV or cinema instead. To overcome such difficulties, relevant motivation is needed in order to choose to read and to become engaged in it.17 The perspective where engagement is seen as a factor shaping readers’ attitudes is focused on intrinsic motivation. It has its origin in studies on the conditions of reading for pleasure which, although implemented within a variety of theoretical and methodological frameworks, take into account one common key characteristic that accompanies intrinsic motivation, namelyautotelism, undertaking reading independently for mere enjoyment.18


10  K. Wolff, ‘Dawne i nowe dylematy czytelnictwa’ [Old and new dilemmas of readership], in Z badań nad książką i księgozbiorami historycznymi [Research on the Book and on Historic Book Collections], vol. 3, Warszawa 2009, pp. 131–157.
11  Situated Literacies: Reading and Writing in Context, ed. D. Barton, M. Hamilton, R. Ivanić,New York 2000.
12  H. R. Jauss, ‘Der Leser als Instanz einer neuen Geschichte der Literatur’, Poetica, vol. 7, no.3–4, 1975, pp. 325–344.
13  P. A. Alexander, E. Fox, ‘Adolescents as Readers’, in Handbook of Reading Research: Volume IV, M. L. Kamil, P. D. Pearson. E. B. Moje, P. B. Afflerbach (eds.), New York 2011, pp. 157–176.
14  J. Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture, London 2006.
15  M. de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. S. Rendall, Berkeley 1988, pp. 165–176.
16  U. Schiefele, E. Schaffner, J. Möller, A. Wigfield, ‘Dimensions of Reading and Their Relation to Reading Behavior and Competence’, Reading Research Quarterly, 47(4), 2012, pp. 427–463, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/RRQ.030/epdf [access: 09/11/2016].
17  P. J. Dunston, L. B. Gambrell, ‘Motivating Adolescent Learners to Read’, in Literacy Instruction for Adolescents: Research-Based Practice, K. D. Wood, W. E. Blanton (eds.), New York 2009, pp. 269–286.
18  J. T. Guthrie, S. Alao, ‘Designing contexts to increase motivation for reading’, Educational Psychologist, vol. 32, no. 2, 1997, pp. 95–105; Engaging Adolescents in Reading, ed. J. T. Guthrie, Thousand Oaks 2008.