A study in the most recent Journal of Educational Psychology by Jihyun Lee, “Universal Factors of Student Achievement in High-Performing Eastern and Western Countries,” sets out to investigate whether there is a common set of attitudes or traits students exhibit that contribute to academic success. One thing that’s interesting about this study is that it’s one of the few that gives us cross-cultural data, East and West, on this important issue: “This study concludes that what motivates human learning is invariant across countries with vastly different educational, cultural, and language systems.” Something that should be especially interesting to librarians is Lee’s finding that one of the main things that motivates learning across cultures was a love of reading. From the abstract: “[e]njoyment of reading in particular was a strong predictor at both individual and country levels” for student success (particularly in the area of student success with reading comprehension skills). In short, students attitudes toward reading – whether they like it or not – has a lot of to with how well they do in school.
This is all very interesting for librarians, as it illustrates the substantial educational role we can play in facilitating student success, from K-12 School Media Specialists to reference & instruction librarians in academic libraries. And, again, it extends our scope beyond just helping students find resources; it shows how instrumental we can be in determining how students feel about their education. As I’ve argued in my scholarly work about authentic engagement with students’ interests, students’ level of engagement and interest with their work impacts their motivation to learn, which, in turn, can impact how much they do learn: How we feel about what we’re learning impacts whether we learn it. One way for library practitioners to benefit from the research in education, then, is to develop strategies to figure out how we can share our love of reading with our students, to instill those feelings in them as well.
Pediatricians are now (literally) prescribing books for children’s health; no reason (academic) librarians can’t try to change how students feel, as well.