Literacy 4-6

Systems Change

Factor Connections

Hover to see how Factors connect to Motivation. Then click connected Factors to explore strategies related to multiple Factors.

Motivation is the desire that guides behavior. We are all affected by whether or not we want to do something. When we are motivated, we value what we are doing more and, as a result, learn more. Helping students find value in their work is critical to helping them become successful readers and writers.

Main Ideas

There are two main types of Motivation:

  • Intrinsic Motivation is the inherent desire to learn and accomplish goals. Some intrinsic motivations to read or write include having interest in the subject matter, wanting to relax or prevent boredom, communicating thoughts or feelings, and finding reading or writing fun or exciting.
  • Extrinsic Motivation is the desire to accomplish goals because of external rewards or recognition or to avoid a negative consequence. Some external Motivations to read or write include achieving a milestone set by a teacher or parent (e.g., reading four books over the summer) and achieving higher academic grades.

Overall, research shows that students who have intrinsic Motivation to read and write, such as seeing how the material connects to their lives or finding the work personally engaging, achieve greater reading comprehension and writing skills than students who are externally motivated. At the same time, research shows that some extrinsic motivators to read and write, such as a reading goal set by a teacher, can also effectively motivate students. Students can begin to consciously value extrinsic goals as personally important, leading to internalizing them as intrinsic Motivation.

Intrinsic Motivation is also why students read for pleasure. Unfortunately, the amount of time children spend reading for pleasure has been found to decrease as they get older. According to the Kids & Family Reading Report by Scholastic and YouGov, 39% of 9- to 11-year-olds read for fun five to seven days a week, but this decreases to 27% of 12- to 14-year-olds.

Finally, self-efficacy for reading and writing, that is, a student's belief about their ability to successfully execute reading and writing tasks, underlies the Motivation to read and write. Because of this, students with a higher literacy self-efficacy will choose to engage in and persist at more challenging reading and writing tasks.

Learn More

View Measures and References