A Study of Students’ Reading Interests in a Second Language

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  A Study of Students’ Reading Interests in a Second Language
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  International Education Studies; Vol. 6, No. 11; 2013 ISSN 1913-9020 E-ISSN 1913-9039 Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education 160 A Study of Students’ Reading Interests in a Second Language Zurina Khairuddin 1   1 School of English Language Studies, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, Terengganu, Malaysia Correspondence: Zurina Khairuddin, School of English Language Studies, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, 21300, Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, Malaysia. Tel: 609-668-8062. E-mail: zkzurina@unisza.edu.my Received: September 23, 2013 Accepted: October 14, 2013 Online Published: October 31, 2013 doi:10.5539/ies.v6n11p160 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/ies.v6n11p160 Abstract Reading interests is important in enhancing students’ success in school and out of it. Hence, students need to have high reading interests. The purposes of this study were to identify students’ reading interests in reading second language materials and to examine the differences in students’ reading interests based on genders. This study was carried out among 86 Form Four students in Kuala Terengganu with simple random sampling using an6-item questionnaire adapted and adopted from Marrero (2009). Data were analysed as well as presented in the form of frequency, means, standard deviation and independent t – test. From this study, it is found that students have relatively low interests in reading English materials and that there is a significant difference between male and female students. From these findings, it can be suggested that stakeholders should take action with regards to developing and enhancing male students’ reading interests. It is hoped that the finding of this study would enlighten the relevant literature of the area. Keywords:  students’ reading interests, secondary school students, second language materials, Terengganu, gender 1. Introduction It is said that reading is the path to success in school and life. One who is not able to read will not be able to succeed (U. S. Department of Education, 2005). This is supported by Safiah (1990) who mentioned that those who are good readers are able to expand their views, experiences and thoughts. Hence, reading is viewed as a highly valued skill in our technology-driven world today. The US Department of Education (2005) also stated that reading is one of the means to gain access to all the knowledge in this world. Living in a largely literate society, we are surrounded by written materials covering almost all aspects of our lives. Examples of written materials are newspapers, books, journals, magazines and other electronic sources which are utilized to acquire knowledge as today’s technology-literate societies operate on the foundation that the members of the society are literate (Wallace, 1992). Wallace (1992) also mentioned that reading has become a big part of the public’s daily life especially now that literacy is given emphasis. This is also maintained by Imran Ariff (2010) who stated that today’s technology-oriented world puts emphasis on knowledge and hence the importance of reading. He also added that knowledge gained will attract people to read and to increase their knowledge. Accordingly, if people do not succumb to the demand for higher literacy, it may create grievous consequences to them. In addition to that, according to Abd Wahab (1995), if Malaysians were to adopt the reading habit, there is a possibility that the Vision 2020 could be achieved. However, Imran Ariff (2010) pointed out that although Malaysians are reported to read more nowadays, they have not adopted the habit of reading. Although reading has a lot of benefits, Malaysians in general and students particularly still do not adopt reading habit (Imran Ariff, 2010; Safiah, 1990). This worries stakeholders such as parents, teachers and society. Accordingly, understanding students’ reading interest in reading English materials and the factors that lead to having high or low reading interest will assist parents, teachers and the society to address students’ reading needs more effectively and thus to raise their attainment towards reading. The awareness among these stakeholders on the importance of identifying students’ reading interest towards reading in a second language can influence students’ reading achievement in English classes (Marohaini, 1989; McKenna &Kear, 1990). Marohaini (1989) added that because of this situation, the stakeholders will establish programs, techniques, strategies or ways to inculcate, develop and enhance students’ reading interests.  www.ccsenet.org/ies International Education Studies Vol. 6, No. 11; 2013 161 Therefore, this study was conducted to identify students’ reading interests in reading English materials and to examine if there are any differences in students’ reading interests based on their gender. 1.1 Research Problem Reading is a skill that must be learned, yet the process of learning to read can become pleasurable and easy for some students or displeasing and complicated for others. Some will employ reading as a learning opportunity while others will avoid it because they find it complex and they struggle at it (Wallace, 2007). This could be the reason why students nowadays are said to be lacking the interest in reading (Ley, Schaer & Dismukes, 1994). This is also supported by Safiah (1990) who mentioned that students nowadays lack the interest in reading. A Malaysian Reading Profile Survey conducted in 2010 also reported that Malaysians who are at the age of 10 and above only read approximately eight to twelve books a year (National Library of Malaysia, 2010). This number is worrisome (Imran Ariff, 2010). He also stated that students nowadays have higher interests in reading; nonetheless, they still do not adopt reading as a habit. Furthermore, students might have difficulties in learning English as a second language (Nunan, 1999). Those who have a negative experience in learning a second language may feel frustrated and angry when reading English texts. These factors, coupled with the embarrassment of not performing well in the language or failure to keep up with other students may create a damaging situation for the students. They might end up become less interested in reading English materials. Therefore, they will not adopt reading in a second language as a habit. Students’ failure to cultivate the reading habit is a major problem (Abd Wahab, 1995). This is due to the fact that students who do not read will have problems academically. In addition to that, students nowadays, including the good ones, do not read for pleasure (Safiah, 1990). It is believed that students read not because they want to read,  but because they have to read. Students perceive reading as a task that they have to undertake in order to excel academically. Furthermore, secondary school students are busy with extra co curricular activities and they also have other personal problems such as they need to take care of their younger siblings or help their parents with house chores (Abd Wahab, 1995). This could create problems as secondary school students including good students tend to lose their interest in reading as they mature (Safiah, 1990). This is maintained by Ley, Schaer and Dismukes (1994) who discovered that a lot of middle school grade students show a remarkable decline in general attitudes towards reading, intrinsic motivation for reading and the frequency of voluntary reading. According to the Malaysian Reading Profile Survey, 93% of Malaysians are literate (National Library of Malaysia, 1998). However, a lot of Malaysians have yet to adopt the habit of reading (Imran Ariff, 2010). In other words, there is quite a number of Malaysians still do not read for pleasure nor they read when they have the time. This is proven by the Malaysian Reading Profile Survey conducted by the National Library of Malaysia (1998) in 1996, which indicated that only 87% of Malaysians adopt the habit of reading in which this number is meant for reading in both the first and second language. Apart from that, according to this reading profile, only 29% of the population uses the library and this is a very small number. In addition to that, 22% of Malaysians develop their ability to read through television or the video medium instead of through reading books or other reading materials. This shows that Malaysians prefer to watch televisions or videos than read. Similar findings were found by Kaur and Thivagarajah (1999) who revealed that Malaysian students preferred to watch television and videos compared to reading for pleasure and as a result, they read very little. Other than that, another research found that the majority of the students were considered as reluctant readers when it came to reading second language materials (Pandian, 2000). Additionally, it is found that university students spent a significant amount of time in reading newspapers, academic books and websites due to the demands from doing assignments, instead of for pleasure (Nor Shariza & Amelia, 2007). In the Malaysian Reading Profile Survey in 2010, it was revealed that Malaysians above 10 years old read at the average of eight to twelve books a year (National Library of Malaysia, 2010). Apart from that, the reading habit in Malaysia is still considered an issue although 93% of Malaysians are literate (Imran Ariff, 2010). Senu (2002, as cited in Imran Ariff, 2010) also mentioned that every family in Malaysia only spends RM50 yearly to buy books and this is a small amount of money to be spent on reading materials. This shows Malaysians still have not adopted the habit of reading. A study by Imran Ariff (2010) discovered that students have interests in reading, however, they have not reached to a point where they take reading as a habit. A research conducted by Mohamad Jafre, Majid and Ooi who investigated the reading interests of Chinese Malaysian students found that 48% of the respondents in the study stated that they read during their spare time (2011). These students mentioned that they mostly read newspapers, magazines and comics (Mohamad Jafre, Majid and Ooi, 2011). However, it is also found that only 20% of the respondents read to pass time and 10% indicated that they read because they believe reading is fun (Mohamad Jafre, Majid and Ooi, 2011). In addition  www.ccsenet.org/ies International Education Studies Vol. 6, No. 11; 2013 162 to this, the result of this research also indicated that the only two students out of 60 students read novels or story  books for more than four hours per day (Mohamad Jafre, Majid and Ooi, 2011). These findings show that Malaysian Chinese students still do not adopt the habit of reading for pleasure. This is one of the major issues parents, teachers and the society are concerned of (Marohaini, 1989). Furthermore, it is an area a few researchers have studied on especially in the area of Kuala Terengganu. In order to bridge the niche, this study would investigate this problem by identifying students’ reading interests in reading English materials and examining if there are any differences in students’ interests based on their genders. As a result of this study, it would be able to help parents and teachers to know their children or students better. By identifying the results of this study, parents would know that they need to emphasize the importance of learning English and reading second language materials. The findings of this study could also assist parents to identify whether what they do at home contributes to the development of their children’s reading habit and interest such as reading aloud or providing a wide range of reading materials for their children. 1.2 Reading Interests Through reading, one has access to a wide range of knowledge found in various reading materials like academic  books, magazines, newspapers and journals (US Department of Education, 2005). One who does not know how to read or does not like to read will likely be archaic as he or she fails to benefit from the opportunity to gain access to the wide range of knowledge. Besides, when readers read to get information, they indirectly improve their reading skills. This is supported by Eskey (2002) who stated that by reading, one learns to read and  becomes better at reading. Due to this, people who read extensively can become good readers as they are exposed to new words. As a result, they will like reading and become successful. The early experience ESL students encounter when reading second language materials could determine their attitudes towards reading (Marrero, 2009). She also stated that students will employ the attitude that they have adopted towards reading in a second language as they advance to the development stages of reading (2009). Furthermore, students in the English language classroom come from different cultures and backgrounds (Grabe, 2003). Due to this, they vary in terms of their reading interest in English reading materials. According to Mc Kool (2007), reading interest is defined as readings done when students are outside the school compound. Furthermore, the US Department of Education (2005) defined reading interests as whether or not students like to read in their spare time or at home or whether they like to go to the library. Besides, reading interest is also defined by the number of books read in a month and the number of times students read in a week and the favourite genres and types of English reading materials. According to research conducted by Taylor, Frye and Maruyama (1990), Anderson, Fielding and Wilson (1988), Stanovich (1986) and Walberg and Tsai (1984), reading interest has a strong positive relationship with the success of students both in school and life. When students read, they will gain more knowledge and this will help them to have wider and broader perspectives on certain issues. Besides, Anderson, Fielding and Wilson (1988) found that students’ reading interest is one of the best predictors of a child’s growth in reading. In addition, other research also revealed that reading interest has been linked and related to vocabulary development, comprehension, fluency as well as general intellectual development (Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000; Taylor, Frye & Maruyama, 1990; Anderson, Fielding & Wilson, 1988; Stanovich, 1986). Consequently, reading interest is also linked to academic success as students who love to read will be able to write well and have more ideas which will make them more creative and innovative (Grabe, 2003; Stansberry, 2009). This means that students who have little or no interest in reading will not be able to force themselves to pick up a book and read for academic  purposes, let alone to read for pleasure. This is maintained by UNESCO (1983) who stated that students who do not like to read at an early stage will not adopt reading habit as they grow older. Another important matter to look at in terms of students reading interests is the differences based on genders. A study conducted by Coles and Hall revealed that 10 to 14 year-old male students read less frequently than female students (2002). Another study showed that more female students reported that they enjoy reading and rate themselves as confident and independent readers (Gambell & Hunter, 2000). The female students in this study also described that they read for pleasure for 15 minutes or more every day. These research illustrate that female students have higher reading interest compared to male students. In the Malaysian context, Sapiah (1987) carried out a study on reading interests among year four students. From a sample of 166 students, she discovered there is no significant difference between male and female students in terms of how many books they read in a month. However, in the same study, Sapiah (1987) discovered that there is a significant difference in terms of the choice of genres based on gender. A more recent study by Nor Shariza  www.ccsenet.org/ies International Education Studies Vol. 6, No. 11; 2013 163 and Amelia revealed that there were some differences between male and female Bachelor of IT and Bachelor of Arts students in terms of their reading habits and reading attitudes (2007). 2. Methodology This study employed the quantitative research as it aimed to establish relationships between variables and look for explanations of the basis of such relationship (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2008). Apart from that, this study also adopted the correlational approach to gather the data where the relationship between two or more variables was determined (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2008). 2.1 Sample Simple random sampling technique was utilised when selecting the sample for this study. This is to ensure that every Form Four student has an equal chance of being selected for the study. The researcher believed that the Form Four students who are 16 years old are matured enough to answer the questions given to them as they are now in the middle adolescence (Kagan & Coles, 1972). During adolescence, adolescents are able to think of abstract things like interests, perspectives and attitudes better (Steinberg, 2005). They are also more likely than children to see things as relative, rather than absolute. Because of this, the Form Four students would be able to give the most accurate answer in terms of their interest in reading. Hence, 86 Form Four students were randomly selected from a list given by the school’s principal and it consisted of 22 male students and 64 female students. 2.2 Instrument This research employed a self – administered survey, so the data were collected through a set of questionnaire. The questionnaire used was adapted and adopted from Marrero (2009). After amending and adapting the questionnaire, a pilot study was conducted to determine the reliability of the questionnaire utilized. This pilot study showed that the Cronbach Alpha is .908 which is more than .7. This means the questionnaire is reliable. This questionnaire consisted of two sections. The questionnaire contained bilingual items which were the English language and the Malay language version. 2.3 Methods of Data Collection The data was collected in April during the 2012 academic year in a period of one month. The teachers and students in the school were informed of the study and its reasons. This study was conducted at SMK Belara, Kuala Terengganu. The researcher started the session with a brief explanation on the research such as the  purpose and significance of the study. The questionnaire was then distributed to the participants by the researcher herself followed and the names of those who receive the questionnaire were noted for recordkeeping  purposes. Although the questionnaire was bilingual where the questions were written in both English and Malay, the researcher was present at the site in order to explain or answer any question from the students to avoid confusion or misunderstanding. Students were given ample time to answer the questions in the questionnaire and the session took approximately 30 minutes. As the researcher was there on site, the questionnaires were collected right after in order to ensure that all students submitted the questionnaires. 2.4 Methods of Data Analysis In order to ensure the data analysis was smoothly run, some of the items in the questionnaire were computed. The first three items in Section B of the questionnaire were computed as ‘Students’ Reading Interests’. The data obtained from the 6 – item questionnaire were analysed using the statistical analysis software, Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) for Windows v17 and presented in the form of related statistical measures including means, standard deviation and independent sample t – test.  www.ccsenet.org/ies International Education Studies Vol. 6, No. 11; 2013 164 3. Results 3.1 Students’ Reading Interests Figure 1. How often students read English Reading Materials (ERM) in a week From Figure 1, out of 86 students, 45 students read English reading materials less than four times a week. Interestingly, 31 students have never read English reading materials. In addition, there are seven students who read English reading materials for 5 – 6 times a week. Finally, three out of 86 students like to read English reading materials every day. Figure 2. How many English Reading Materials (ERM) students read outside of school compound in April From Figure 2, out of 86 students, 42 students read 1 – 3 English reading materials in April. Interestingly, 31 students did not read any English reading material in April. In addition, there were 12 students who read 4 – 6 English reading materials in April. Finally, one out of 86 students read 7 – 10 English reading materials in April.
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