Reading Achievement & Motivation

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Toste et al. (2020) have just published a meta-analytic review of 132 research articles (involving over 690,000 participants) investigating the relationship between motivation and reading achievement among students from kindergarten through to the 12th grade (it is a USA study). Unsurprisingly, they found that there was a moderate but significant positive relation between motivation (goal orientation, beliefs, dispositions or broad intrinsic motivation) and reading (code-focused, meaning-focused or general reading) and that early reading success was a strong predictor of later motivation.


The results showed that in terms of motivation the constructs of beliefs and dispositions both have a significantly stronger relation to reading achievement than goal orientation. Goal orientation was defined as “an individual’s habitual approaches towards reading and the intentions they set related to their reading actions (including performance and mastery goals)”.”Beliefs referred to “an individual’s perceptions and judgements related to their competence, abilities and capacity… as well as beliefs about reading…as an activity and their experience with reading.” Disposition was defined as “an individual’s feelings about reading or their positive orientation towards reading about a particular topic.”

Although the researchers reported a moderate but significant positive correlation between motivation and reading, they cautioned against interpreting motivation as a general predictor of reading.  Contrary to the idea that students are either motivated or unmotivated to read, these authors suggest that motivation has a different outcome for different students. They give the example of a student with a low sense of self-efficacy regarding reading ability who nevertheless maintains a high level of engagement with classroom reading tasks.

Longitudinal Findings

The researchers reported that motivation and reading mutually influenced each other. In particular earlier reading was found to be a stronger predictor of later motivation than motivation was a predictor of reading. In other words, early reading instruction and intervention may be indirectly influencing reading development through impact on motivation.

Take Home Message

Reading to children and developing a love of books and literacy is insufficient.  Children need to experience reading success from an early age. This means if a child is struggling to learn to read, an effective intervention needs to be put in place as soon as possible.


Toste, J. R., Didion, L., Peng, P., Filderman, M. J., & McClelland, A. M. (2020). A Meta-Analytic Review of the Relations Between Motivation and Reading Achievement for K–12 Students. Review of Educational Research, 90(3), 420–456.