Motivation and Literacy Development in Students With or At Risk for Reading Difficulties and Other Diverse Learners : Topics in Language Disorders

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Issue Editor Foreword

Motivation and Literacy Development in Students With or At Risk for Reading Difficulties and Other Diverse Learners

Editor(s): Cho, Eunsoo PhD, Issue Editor

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Topics in Language Disorders 43(2):p 95-96, April/June 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/TLD.0000000000000315
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Motivation is what drives and energizes students to engage in learning behaviors that help them achieve their goals. Motivation is essential in the active learning process where students engage with texts to construct meaning from print and to write to communicate their thoughts (Wigfield et al., 2016). Several models of reading, such as the Active View of Reading (Duke & Cartwright, 2021) and the Component Model of Reading (Aaron et al., 2008), have identified motivational components as critical contributors to reading development, in addition to decoding and language comprehension. Similarly, the Direct and Indirect Effects Model of Writing (Kim & Park, 2019) posits that motivation and various component writing skills are reciprocally related and influence writing development.

Motivation plays an even more critical role in the literacy development of children with learning difficulties, including students with reading disabilities (Cho et al., 2022), who require optimal motivation to utilize their limited cognitive resources fully. However, research has shown that students with learning disabilities and other low achievers tend to demonstrate maladaptive motivational patterns characterized by lower efficacy and intrinsic motivation (Baird et al., 2009; Lee & Zentall, 2012) than peers without disabilities or learning struggles. Despite this, motivational needs have rarely been central to instructional design.

This issue of Topics in Language Disorders includes two research syntheses that examined the extent to which motivational challenges of struggling readers are addressed in vocabulary (Louick et al.) and foundational reading (Cho et al.) interventions. It also presents a concrete example of how the motivational challenges of struggling readers can be addressed through a reading intervention with embedded growth mindset support (Al Otaiba et al.). Finally, a descriptive study (Camacho et al.) identifies writing motivational profiles associated with poor writing performance, offering implications for instructional environments that promote writing development.

Louick et al. reviewed 55 studies of vocabulary interventions for students with or at risk for reading difficulties and identified 21 studies that incorporated at least one motivation construct into the vocabulary intervention. They found that effective vocabulary interventions focused on student interests and goals, using technology, or identifying topics of high interest to students. In addition, the interventions incorporated support for students' self-regulation through identifying goals, set either by teachers or by students, and/or monitoring progress toward the set goals. The authors offer suggestions for researchers and practitioners for incorporating motivation into instructional design to bolster vocabulary learning for students at risk for learning problems.

In their secondary meta-analysis of reading interventions for students with or at risk for dyslexia, Cho et al. distinguished between motivational supports, which enhance interest and engagement, and motivational strategy instruction, which explicitly teaches students strategies to regulate their motivation and reading-related behaviors. They found that only 44% of the interventions included motivational practices, with more than 80% of these focusing primarily on motivational supports without explicit instruction. Their meta-analytic findings suggest that motivational strategy instruction tends to yield larger effects on reading outcomes than interventions with only motivational support or without any motivational support at all, although there was large heterogeneity in effect sizes within these categories.

The third article by Al Otaiba et al. exemplifies how motivational practices promoting a growth mindset can be integrated into word reading interventions. The authors extended their prior work, in which commercially available mindset and reading interventions were implemented side by side, by embedding motivational supports within the reading intervention. Despite mixed findings, this study provides initial support for their approach.

Finally, Camacho et al. examined motivational profiles among Portuguese middle school students whose classroom environments were competitive. They found that students with highly performance-oriented goals and a fixed mindset struggled more with writing than those with less performance-oriented goals and a growth mindset. This finding underscores the importance of recognizing diversity in writing motivation and the need for creating a classroom environment that de-emphasizes grades and competition.

Overall, this issue addresses a critical concern in education—that students with or at risk for learning disabilities and other diverse learners need instructional supports that promote adaptive motivation alongside evidence-based literacy interventions. The two review articles highlight the need for more intervention research that recognizes and addresses the motivational challenges faced by these students. In addition, the articles in this issue underscore the importance of taking a theoretically sound approach when designing literacy interventions that incorporate motivational practices. I hope that this issue provides readers with a strong theoretical foundation for understanding motivation, as well as guidance on how to address the complex literacy and motivational needs of students with or at risk for learning problems.

—Eunsoo Cho, PhD
Issue Editor


Aaron P. G., Joshi R. M., Gooden R., Bentum K. E. (2008). Diagnosis and treatment of reading disabilities based on the component model of reading: An alternative to the discrepancy model of LD. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 41(1), 67–84.
Baird G. L., Scott W. D., Dearing E., Hamill S. K. (2009). Cognitive self-regulation in youth with and without learning disabilities: Academic self-efficacy, theories of intelligence, learning vs. performance goal preferences, and effort attributions. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 28(7), 881–908.
Cho E., Ju U., Kim E. H., Lee M., Lee G., Compton D. L. (2022). Relations among motivation, executive functions, and reading comprehension: Do they differ for students with and without reading difficulties? Scientific Studies of Reading, 1–22.
Duke N. K., Cartwright K. B. (2021). The science of reading progresses: Communicating advances beyond the simple view of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S25–S44.
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Wigfield A., Gladstone J., Turci L. (2016). Beyond cognition: Reading motivation and reading comprehension. Child Development Perspectives, 10(3), 190–195.
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