Date of Award

Spring 2019

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Ruth Wharton-McDonald

Second Advisor

Winston Thompson

Third Advisor

Paula Salvio


Although little attention has been paid to primary-age children’s reading motivation in comparison to older readers, one disturbing trend has been repeatedly observed: reading motivation generally declines across the early elementary years. Given that children’s perceptions of school experiences shape motivation, and motivation impacts achievement, it is imperative that we better understand how school programming intended to promote reading skill development influences younger students’ motivation to read within it and beyond it. This dissertation employs a qualitative case study design, an approach rarely used to examine reading motivation, to begin addressing the first concern; a sample (N=14) of kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade readers’ motivation-related perceptions (i.e., benefits and costs) of a pull-out Tier 2 reading intervention are examined. Students’ understandings are considered in conjunction with reading specialist and researcher evaluations of their behavioral engagement to pluralistically infer how the program is shaping students’ developing motivation for doing reading in the intervention setting. All participants articulated benefits associated with reading intervention involvement, and ten students across the three grades articulated costs associated with their participation. Perceived intervention costs appeared to outweigh perceived benefits for five students; despite recognized benefits of participation, these five students indicated that given the choice, they would opt to do reading in the classroom rather than do reading in the intervention setting. Furthermore, children’s perceived costs tended to align with their basic psychological needs for autonomy and/or competence not being sufficiently met within the intervention; children who preferred the classroom typically desired more control over their learning and/or more support in completing tasks they understood to be challenging. Lastly, results evidenced that adult reports of children’s intervention engagement largely aligned with first- and second-grade students’ motivation for doing reading in the intervention setting; children who indicated a preference for doing reading in the classroom as opposed to the intervention setting were generally reported by adults to be less engaged in the reading intervention. Adult reports of kindergarten students’ engagement were less telling of their instructional preferences. Regardless, students’ perceptions offered valuable information about how the reading intervention could be modified to better support their developing motivation—information that might not have surfaced if adult reports of engagement had been relied upon exclusively. In summary, results: a) imply that children’s perceived benefits and costs of imposed programming should be regularly elicited and sincerely considered in addition to adult reports of engagement to gauge the impact of intervention programming on motivation and to make modifications; b) imply that additional research is warranted to better understand students’ motivation-related perceptions of intervention programming across contexts and to gauge the impact of programming on children’s more universal reading motivation; and c) evidence the promise of the methodological approach utilized in furthering our understanding of young children’s reading motivation in context.