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

The circumstances of such gratification are connected with the reader’s expectations as well as with the nature and topic of the text. Those characteristics of the reader’s reception that keep them interested and curious about the text are an important factor determining such motivation. This is firstly literary reading. Studies on literary text reception provide numerous empirical examples of reading engagement.19 For instance, cognitive psychology research describes it as “being absorbed” by the text, transported into a different world created by the narration.20 The reader expands their experience by new states of mind often unknown in their everyday life. Living the fiction makes them treat the story they read as an experiment, an exercise in self-distance and in taking the character’s perspective, also in terms of moral judgement.21 Engagement is also described through the emotions awakening during the reading process in relation to literary characters, as well as the reader’s participation in the game designed by the plot’s author. Such emotions unleash cognitive processes, self-reference memory, and anticipation, such as figuring the personality traits of a character, or empathy-related emotions, for example becoming friends with a literary character.22 Getting absorbed in a plot helps to stimulate empathetic feelings. Readers follow the narrator to enter a fictional world, which allows them to experiment with their own states of mind, to train their empathy, and to identify with the character, to “walk in someone else’s shoes”, guess their motivation, anticipate its consequences etc.

The socio-demographic conditions for Polish teenagers to engage in reading

Empirical research, based on social science tools analysing pleasure reading and reading engagement among young people, mostly consists
of studies on attitudes towards reading and their link to educational progress at schools (such as OECD PISA),23 the effects of readership promotion campaigns, and the evaluation of didactic teaching methods and strategies. Reading engagement is usually described as a positive emotional attitude towards reading, the key component of intrinsic motivation for reading.24 Reading engagement and motivation for reading are analysed in relation to other factors such as the socio-cultural context, the students’ prior knowledge and interests, and learning strategies, as well as compulsory and voluntary reading activity. In this context, reading engagement is defined as an attitude where reading belongs to one’s natural and obvious strategies of behaving (cultural tool kit),25 is taken for granted as a leisure activity, practised systematically — every day or almost every day — and is intrinsically motivated, which means that the will to read results from a conviction that reading brings pleasure and satisfaction.26 The category of engaged readers was singled out in the 2010 lower secondary school readership survey in order to comprehensively cover the examined components of teenagers’ attitudes towards reading. Engaged readers were understood as those who: declared they read both in and outside of the school curriculum, admitted they enjoyed reading, and were able to indicate a book they found recommendable for their peers to read. Thus, they were active readers making their own choices, without contesting the viability of required reading, with a positive attitude towards books, and with the competencies necessary for enjoyable reading as well as their own idea of what such reading should be like, which enabled them to indicate books worth reading. Hence, following this approach, engaged readers were considered to be 15-year-olds who read and enjoyed reading, readily participating in book-related social interactions. Such students represented 29% of the entire population. The sum of the above aspects revealed significant differences in the attitudes of 15-yearolds towards reading. Gender turned out to be the most influential differentiating factor for attitudes towards reading, as girls outnumbered boys in the group of engaged readers by 25 percentage points — only 15% of boys were categorised in this group.


19  E. Andringa, M. Shreier, ‘How Literature Enters Life: An Introduction’, Poetics Today, 25(2), 2004, pp. 161–169; D. S. Miall, Literary Reading: Empirical and Theoretical Studies, New York 2006.
20  L. Zunshine, Why We Read Fiction. Theory of Mind and the Novel, Columbus 2006; J. R. Gerrig, Experiencing Narrative Worlds: On the Psychological Activities of Reading, New Heaven 1993.
21  D. Kuiken, D. S. Miall, S. Sikora, ‘Forms of Self-Implication in Literary Reading’, Poetics Today, vol. 25, no. 2, 2004, pp. 171–203.
22  D. C. Kidd, E. Castano, ‘Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind’, Science,18/10/2013, vol. 342, issue 6156, pp. 377–380, http://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6156/377 [access: 09/11/2016]; E. M. Koopman, F. Hakemulder, op. cit.;
K. Oatley, ‘A taxonomy of the emotions of literary response and a theory of identification in fictional narrative’, Poetics, vol. 23, no. 2–3, 1995, pp. 53–74.
23  W. G. Brozo, G. Shiel, K. Topping, ‘Engagement in Reading: Lessons Learned from Three PISA Countries’, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, vol. 51, no. 4, 2007, pp. 304–315; OECD, PISA 2009 Results: Executive Summary, 2010, www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/
46619703.pdf [access: 09/11/2016].
24  J. T. Guthrie et al., ‘Growth of Literacy Engagement: Changes in Motivations and Strategiesduring Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction’, Reading Research Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 3,1996, pp. 306–332, https://msu.edu/~dwong/CEP991/CEP991Resources/Guthrie-MotRdng.
pdf [access: 09/11/2016]; A. Wigfield, J. T. Guthrie, op. cit.
25  E. L. Deci, R. M. Ryan, Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior, New York 1985.
26  A. Swidler, ‘Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies’, American Sociological Review, vol. 51,no. 2, 1986, pp. 273–286, http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic1458086.files/Swidler_CultureInAction.pdf [access: 09/11/2016].