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Research Update: Understanding Elementary Students’ Attitudes Towards Reading, Writing, and Drawing

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

By Avery Castellani, using data collected by the larger BoB Research Team

On Friday, November 17th, the Busload of Books research team took on the annual National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) convention in Columbus, Ohio. A large part of our exhibition, aside from accompanying Matthew and Robbi by the bus, was a poster presentation helmed by fellow student researcher Riley McHugh and I. The poster, pictured below, was centered around one of our many research questions: What is the relationship between elementary students' attitudes towards reading, writing, and drawing in Title-1 eligible schools?

Reading, writing, and drawing are all mainstays of the elementary education experience. Still, there has been little research done on how these three elements of literacy are valued by elementary students themselves. The research we do have, however, shows that there is a highly reciprocal relationship between reading, writing, and drawing. They compliment each other well when reinforced together, which positively impacts their academic performance. Unfortunately, we also know that students' attitudes toward reading specifically tend to worsen over time. The questions posed on the surveys we administered to our research schools were specifically tailored to capture a snapshot of those attitudes, as well as whether or not these relationships change depending on grade level or the number of books a student has at home.

The following table is a summary of our results:

As the table shows, reading, writing, and drawing are all positively scored across the elementary grades. This supports the previously found reciprocal relationship between them no matter the grade level cohort, which we split between K-1st and 2-6th, as the older students were given a different assembly experience than the younger students. We also found the aforementioned decay of enthusiasm, with the K-1st graders scoring, reading, writing, and drawing significantly higher overall than the 2nd-6th grade cohort scored the same category. ​

Both grade cohorts, however, reported that students with more books at home have a more positive attitude toward all three literacy areas. This finding is especially important when we consider that nearly half of all children in the United States lack books at home (Ness 2020).

Overall, however, there is much to be optimistic about. Most notably, elementary students across the country are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about literacy! We are able to report a positive baseline for reading, writing, and drawing. The interconnection between these three literacy areas, as well as their prevalence in elementary school routine already, opens the door for many meaningful curricular and instructional connections. And though drawing specifically is often pushed to the wayside or segregated to art class alone, its value in the general classroom curriculum is made clear by our results and cannot be overstated.

Thank you for continuing to follow us as we unpack our NCTE journey! We have a lot of other exciting things on the horizon, most notably our upcoming presentation at the annual American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference in the spring. While there, we'll be diving into questions surrounding elementary teacher prepration for one-time author and illustrator events such as Matthew and Robbi's. Keep your eyes on this space for future research updates!


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