Creative Education
2011. Vol.2, No.5, 429-434
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/ce.2011.25062
Identifying Reading Preferences of Secondary School Students
Irshad Hussain1, Parveen Munshi2
1Department of Education, The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Bahawalpur, Pakistan;
2Faculty of Education, University of Sindh Hyderabad, Pakistan.
Received October 3rd, 2011; revised November 16th, 2011; accepted November 21st, 2011.
The present study was conducted with the main purpose of identifying reading preferences of secondary school
students and their related issues. The study was conducted on a total of 387 secondary school students of aca-
demic session 2010-12 in District Bahawalpur of Pakistan. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected
through questionnaire and interview schedule respectively by adopting survey method. The study concluded that
secondary school students preferred to read books, magazines, poetry and other reading materials to get pleasure
through edutainment, kill their leisure time during holidays and/or at weekends and for their emotional gratifica-
tion. The respondents preferred to read books on religion, literature, novels, magazines and story & romantic
books. They were keen on reading newspaper, traveling story and scientific books, autobiographies and litera-
ture poetry and drama. They faced problems in reading and setting their reading preferences like high costs of
the books, context and circumstances, availability of books, time and their time management ability, examina-
tions & academic workload, lack of guidance, personal interest, and their study circles or groups.
Keywords: Adolescents, Edutainment, Guidance, Intelligentsia, Reading Preferences
Perspective and Importance of Reading
Reading appears to be a dynamic process and it involves
readers actively to enhance their vocabulary and level of infor-
mation. It is a process of communication between writer and
reader. To put it another way one can say that it is an art of de-
coding and construing message under and through the words—
written materials. Smith and Robinson (1980) defined it simply
as to be an endeavor of reader to understand message of the
writer. Generally, reading and reading habits are used to de-
scribe different attributes of the readers. Basically, reading is an
intellectual activity which actively involves readers to under-
stand and process information; whereas reading habit is re-
garded as a psychological attribute of one’s personality (Sharma
and Singh, 2005). Like other habits reading habit may take time
to develop as an attribute of one’s personality.
Ögeyik, M. C., & Akyay, E. (2009) viewed reading as a sig-
nificant process in ones’ academic life leading towards knowl-
edge. It guides individuals to develop creativity and critical
thinking. Reading and reading habit help readers satisfy their
personal needs, enhance level of maturity and ensure freedom
of opinion formation & reflection. Opinion formation and re-
flection is a critical process and demands a blend of vision and
wisdom for which adolescents are wished for.
Different motives promote reading and reading habits among
young children and adolescents. Their interests and context can
be considered to be the basic motives which urge them to ac-
quire information and knowledge. The urge for acquiring in-
formation and knowledge leads them to read books, newspapers,
novels, research papers and articles etc. It indicates their read-
ing preferences. Reading preferences of all individuals may be
different according to their specific age group(s) and need(s) of
information. Apparently, they need someone to help in select-
ing book(s) to read according to their age, interest and intellec-
tual capability. However, teachers can help young children and
adolescents to select appropriate book(s) by knowing their
reading preferences, maturity level & mindset, socio-cultural
and family background. Teachers can motivate and guide them
to select and read books that best meet their academic and emo-
tional needs.
Context of Setting Reading Preferences
Naturally, all individuals are different with their respective
potential to read and understand the information. The adoles-
cents’ interest in reading books and their contexts indicate the
type and process of acquiring information. Elliott (2006) con-
ducted a meta-analysis of studies on reading and found attitude
of adolescents toward new information to be on a continuum
with childhood, and varied progress exclusive of specific age
group. Adolescents have a natural tendency to idealize and
fantasize characters and personalities. Therefore, their selection
of books for reading to learn seems to be contextual associated
with socio-cultural and geo-political conditions (Ayyıldız,
Bozkurt, & Canlı, 2006) arising from some uncertain events.
For example people of all age groups in Pakistan appeared to be
interested in reading books on Former President of Iraq Saddam
Hussain during America’s invasion on Iraq in 1990s. Similarly,
people all over the world started reading books on Islam after
the emergence of Taliban and American attack on them in Af-
ghanistan. Millions of people were reported to be reading pa-
pers, articles, and books on Islam even in Europe and America
itself. Likewise, books on Zulfeqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir
Bhutto grabbed the market sale after their assassination respec-
tively. The scandal book on secret romance of Monica Lewin-
sky with Clinton (Monica Story) appeared to be an open ro-
mantic book which attracted the adolescents and young adults’
at large scale. These are a few examples which indicate context
of reading preferences and information acquiring attitude of
adolescents and older people.
Reading Preferences of Adolescents and Secondary
School Students
Physiologically and psychologically human life is divided
into different developmental stages each corresponding to spe-
cific age group—toddler and infancy (birth to three years) to
older adult (80 years and above) age groups ( However, in Pakistan, secondary school students
who are 14 - 18 years old (Hussain, 2009) belong to adolescent
(13 - 20 years age group. They
seem to be imaginary having idealistic approach with a little
perception of the real world around. They tend to seek ideals
and show their interest in opposite gender. Adolescence appears
to be volatile period of one’s life which may mislead young-
sters in blossoming emotions. Different tendencies are usually
observed in different students even in the same class and/or
school—these may be positive as well as negative. Therefore,
they need guidance and counseling to divert their emotions in
right direction at the right time. Their reading preferences and
selection of books may be set according to their aptitude and
needs through mutual negotiation.
Generally speaking, adolescents love to read books for
pleasure and edutainment—education through fun. This edu-
tainment blended with wittiness may influence their reading
preferences. More or less, all individuals are likely to have the
sense of humor and wittiness. Therefore, the books on humor
appeal to the people irrespective of their age (Greenlaw &
Wielan, 1979) groups but adolescents seem to be more inclined
toward them. They love reading poetry, adventurous & myste-
rious novels and comic books. They prefer to idealize romantic,
brave, humorous, and adventurous characters with an inclina-
tion to adopt. A few may read newspapers and magazines, but
these are scarcely available in Pakistani schools particularly for
Review of Related Studies
Reading preferences and interests of young children and
adolescents studying at different levels have been addressed by
many researchers the world over. For example, the study con-
ducted by Worthy (1999) addressed the reading preferences of
elementary school students. It revealed that the students of
grade-6 preferred to read story books, cartoons, comics, popular
magazines, and sports even though these books were rarely
available in school libraries. When young children get mature,
their intellectual faculties develop and they wish to see the
world practically. Ley, Schaer and Dismukes (1994) asserted
that elementary students (grades six through eight) were eager
to read more for practical life and less for individual develop-
ment or enjoyment. Therefore, it can be said that curiosity to
know and desire to fantasize the characters enhances reading
and reading habits of young children and adolescents.
The study of (McGinley & Kamberelis, 1996) concluded that
the younger children in grades three and four read books for
recreation and fun. It may give them pleasure and they tend to
learn with amusement. Young children are always curious and
they seem to be enthusiastic to observe the nature and natural
environment. They take interest in different objects particularly,
birds, animals, butterflies and flowers. Graham (1986) affirmed
it by asserting that they (young children studying in grades 3 &
4) were more interested in animals & nature and wished for
reading adventurous and story books. The gender-wise divide
of interest was investigated by Wolfson, and Manning, and
Manning (1984) and found that boys strongly preferred nonfic-
tion whereas their counterparts did show their stronger prefer-
ences for realistic fiction. However, the [Gouvernement du]
Québec (2005) survey found that girls read more books and
magazines and they had a greater tendency to read for longer
duration. But, their counterparts preferred comic & humour
books and they appeared to be more interested in reading sci-
ence fiction, scientific information and sports pages in newspa-
pers. But in schools, students were advised to read textbooks
with wishful choice of other books. Similarly, the studies of
Bundy (1983) and Hawkins (1983) revealed that intermediate
students showed their interest in reading books on history and
science, however, some of them enjoyed reading mysterious
and adventurous books and autobiographies of great people.
Generally, young children are likely to take interest in comic
books, and adventure and mystery novels.
Factors Affecting Reading Preferences
Different factors seem to be responsible for limiting reading
preferences of school children and adolescents. Among others,
the assessment system may be regarded more important. In
Pakistan assessment sy stem cons ists of paper pencil tests which
compel students to study their textbooks for higher grades.
They are advised to do homework (course assignments) and
prepare for the examinations. It limits their extensive reading
(Todd, 2003). They may not become good readers and wish for
satisfactory grades. Inadequate or less reading may lower the
performance and grades of students in schools. The study con-
ducted by Nielsen (2005) supported it by affirming an inade-
quate reading skill as one of the factors responsible for teens’
poor performance.
Similarly, some factors may effect on selection of books.
Burgess (1985) found that young and adolescent students tend
to select books according to their favorite authors. Appearance
of the book—cover and title page, illustrations, content of the
first page, and its length has a significant effect on such stu-
dents. However, Wilson (1985) linked these factors with lower
achieving students and asserted that they preferred romantic,
original, brave, funny, bold and adventurous characters. Subject
matter of the book, its cover page and outlines apparently has
significant signify their choice of reading material.
Rationale of the Study
The available literature indicates that reading preferences of
young school children and adolescents have been a hot topic in
developed countries over decades (Todd, 2003). However, a
narrow scale of such studies appears in the context of Pakistan
which led to conduct the study.
Objectives of the Study
The present study was conducted with the following objec-
1) To identify reading preferences of secondary school stu-
2) To find out the purpose of their reading books and/other
3) To examine the problems and factors affecting reading
preferences of secondary school students.
Research Methodology
This study addressed the prevailing situation of reading and
reading preferences of secondary school students in District
Bahawalpur of Pakistan. Therefore, the researchers used survey
method of descriptive research for data collection. The study
was delimited to male secondary schools only. The population
of the study consisted on secondary school students (male) of
Bahawalpur District Academic Session 2010-12. The research-
ers adopted qualitative and quantitative approaches to find out
the real situation of the phenomenon under study. They used
convenient sampling technique and collected quantitative data
from 387 students and 12 secondary schools. They collected
quantitative data by administering a questionnaire prepared on
five-point rating (likert) scale and finalized after pilot testing.
The questionnaires were administered through head teachers of
the respective secondary schools.
Similarly, the researchers collected qualitative data from 238
students through focused group interview technique by using an
interview schedule. The participants/respondents of the study
were briefed about its objectives and interviewed in groups at
their respective schools. The responses of the participants (in-
terviewees) were recorded and analyzed qualitatively and that
of quantitative responses/data through percentage for arriving at
conclusions. However, all of the respondents participated on
volunteer basis in the study.
Data Analysis and Results of the Study
Quantitative Data Analysis and Results
The results of quantitative data are presented in tables which
are given below.
Reading Preferences of Secondary School Students
The data given in the Table 1 revealed that there were dif-
ferent motives which inspired secondary school students to set
their reading preferences and select books. According to the
data secondary school students preferred to read books, maga-
zines, poetry and other reading materials to get pleasure (80%)
through edutainment for enhancing their learning (90%) for life
and attitude to gain and/or construct new knowledge (92%)
blending information with their personal experience and/or life.
Similarly, they wished to read books and other reading materi-
als to kill their leisure time (71%) during holidays and/or at
weekends, and adopted reading as their pastime hobby (65%)
along with regular course of study. Secondary school students
appeared to be imaginary and sentimental therefore, they (65%)
showed their interest in reading for their emotional gratification
for developing balanced personality and stability in life. How-
ever, they (67%) appeared not to read for snobbery or preten-
tiousness which indicated that secondary school students were
mature readers keen on construing the concepts, information
and/ or knowledge.
Types of Books Which Secondary School Students
Prefer to Read
Table 2 described the reading preferences of secondary
school students. The respondents of the study were Muslims
and therefore, they preferred religious books (87%) foe reading
to get information about religious life. They were found to be
interested in reading literary books (85%), novels, story books
and romantic literature (55%, 88% and 81% respectively). The
data affirmed that they were keen on reading informative books
and materials like newspaper (65%), traveling story (79%) and
scientific books (99%) to enhance their knowledge and level of
information. The Secondary school students appeared to have
tendency of idealizing personalities and characters and there-
fore, they desired to read autobiographies (75%) and magazines
(89%). However, the data confirmed that they had aesthetic
sense to enjoy the colours of life by reading poetry (romantic
95%; classical 65%) in local or national languages, and drama
(comedy 75%; tragedy only 40%).
Source of Guidance to Select Reading Materials
The Table 3 presented the data on opinion of secondary
school students about their source of guidance for selecting
reading materials. The data reflected that secondary school
students were of the opinion that they needed guidance in se-
lecting good reading books/materials which they desired to seek
from their teachers (88%), parents (79%) and friends or study
mates (82%). However, in the age of media and technology
they (72%) also came to know about some of the famous books
and/or magazines, novels etc. through their advertisements in
electronic or print media and they (71%) themselves selected
such books/materials to read.
Problems and Factors Affecting Their Reading
Preferences of Secondary Students
Table 4 reflected different factors which affected the reading
preferences of secondary school students. They pointed out
various reasons and factors which affected their reading and
reading preferences like high costs of the books and/or other
reading materials (92%) and their low purchasing power, con-
Table 1.
Opinion of secondary school students about their reading preferences.
Level of Agreement (Percentage of respective frequencies is given in parentheses)
Sub themes SA A UNC DA SDA
Read for ple asure 197 (50.9) 113 (29.2) 0 49 (12.7) 28 (7.2 )
Read for learning 211 (54.5) 139 (35.9) 0 21 (5.4) 16 (4.1)
Read for knowing/Kno wledge 191 (49.4) 166 (42.9) 2 (0.5) 23 (5.9) 5 (1.3)
Read to kill the t ime 141 (36.4) 132 (34.1) 8 (2.1) 66 (17.1) 40 (10.3)
Reading as hobby 97 (25.1) 156 (40.3) 3 (0.8 ) 77 (19.9) 54 (14.0)
Emotional satisfacti on 111 (28.7) 139 (35.9) 4 (1.0) 94 (24.3) 39 (10.1)
Read for sno bbery 38 (9.8) 81 (20.9) 8 (2.1) 148 (38.2) 112 (28.9)
Table 2.
Opinion of Secondary School Students about the types of Books which they preferred to read.
Level of Agreement (Percentage of respective frequencies is given in parentheses)
Sub themes SA A UNC DA SDA
Religious books 199 (51.4) 138 (35.7) 4 (1.0) 26 ( 6.7) 20 (5.2)
Literary bo oks 172 (44.4) 156 (40.3) 6 (1.6) 36 (9.3) 17 (4.4)
Novels 99 (25.6) 114 (29.5) 2 (0.5) 98 (25.3) 74 ( 19 .1)
Story books 213 (55.0) 126 (32.6) 2 (0.5) 28 (7. 2) 18 (4.7)
Romantic literature 171 (44.2) 144 (37.2) 2 (0.5) 23 (5.9) 47 (12.1)
Newspapers 117 (30.2) 134 (34.6) 6 (1.6) 87 (22.5) 43 (11.1)
Traveling st o ry 167 (43.2) 138 (35.7) 2 (0.5) 33 (8.5) 47 (12.1)
Magazines 189 (48.8) 156 (40.3) 4 (1.0) 26 (6.7) 12 (3.1)
Romantic poetry 171 (44.2) 198 (51.2) 0 12 (3.1) 6 (1.6)
Classical poetry 98 (25. 3) 154 (39.8) 2 (0.5) 77 (19.9) 56 (14.5)
Scientific books 187 (48.3) 198 (51.2) 0 2 (0.5) 0
Autobiogra phies 133 (34.4) 161 (41.6) 2 (0.5) 77 (19. 9) 14 (3.6)
Comedy Drama 181 (46.8) 106 (27.4) 2 (0.5) 46 (11.9) 52 (13.4)
Tragedy drama 67 (17.3) 88 (22.7) 4 (1.0) 117 (30.2) 111 (28.7)
Table 3.
Opinion of secondary school students about their source of guidance for selecting reading materials.
Level of Agreement (Percentage of respective frequencies is given in parentheses)
Sub themes SA A UNC DA SDA
Teachers 213 (55.0) 126 (32.6) 2 (0.5) 28 (7.2) 18 (4.7)
Parents 112 (28.9) 188 (48.6) 4 (1.0) 56 (14.5) 27 (7.0)
Friends 202 (52.2) 114 (29.5) 2 (0.5) 29 (7.5) 40 (10.3)
Advertise ments-media 122 (31.5) 158 (40.8) 6 (1.6) 53 (13.7 ) 48 (12.4)
Self-select ion 127 (32.8) 148 (38.2) 8 (2.1) 37 (9.6) 67 (17.3)
Table 4.
Opinion of secondary school students about problems and factors affecting their reading preferences.
Level of Agreement (Percentage of respective frequencies is given in parentheses)
Sub themes SA A UNC DA SDA
Cost 204 (52.2) 152 (39.3) 2 (0.5) 17 (4.4) 12 (3.5)
Context 166 (42.9) 187 (48.3) 4 (1.0) 24 (6.2) 6 (1.6)
Availability o f books 171 (44.2) 111 (28.7) 0 46 (11.9) 59 (15.2)
Time and time management 211 (54.5) 129 (33.3) 2 (0.5) 26 (6.7) 19 (4.9)
Examinations 199 (51.4) 122 (31.5) 0 23 (5.9) 43 (11.1)
Lack of guida n ce 132 (34.1) 114 (29.5) 4 (1.0) 84 (21.7) 53 (13.7)
Personal interest 148 (38.2) 161 (41.6) 0 32 (8.3) 46 (11.9)
Workload 168 (43.4) 143 (37.0) 2 (0.5) 49 (12.7) 25 (6.5)
Study circles/groups 166 (42.9) 142 (36.7) 2 (0.5) 57 (14.7) 20 (5.2)
text and circumstances at national or international level (91%)
motivating them towards reading a specific book/article/paper
etc., and availability of such books (73%) in the schools’ library
and market which they ever wished for. Similarly, some other
factors appeared to have an impact on reading preferences of
secondary school students—time and their time management
ability (88%), examinations and their preparation (83%) and
workload and number of courses being taught in the school
(80%). Besides of all these elements lack of guidance (64%),
lack of personal interest (80%) and reading taste of study cir-
cles or study groups (80%) appeared to be most important fac-
tors to have an impact on reading and setting reading prefer-
ences of secondary school students.
Results of Qualitative Data Analysis
The participants revealed interesting facts about reading fa-
cilities and their preferences, their problems and needs of guid-
ance in selecting books for reading. During the interview the
participants explained their reading interests and motives.
There were different reasons which usually made secondary
school students read different books of their interests. Majority
of the respondents from all of the sampled schools asserted,
We read to know. Books give us new knowledge and informa-
tion about cultures and countries, people and places, innova-
tions and inventions, discoveries and geography, science and
technology, and fiction and realities of and about life. We read
for pleasure and fun. We have aesthetic sense and read poetry
and books on humor and comedy, adventure, travel stories
(SAFAR NAMA), love and romantic stories, scientific and gen-
eral knowledge.”
Pakistan is Muslim Country and therefore, all (100%) of the
respondents were Muslims. It is obligatory for all Muslims to
have basic knowledge of and about the fundamentals of Islam.
Reading enhances level of information and knowledge of the
reader(s). Reading in groups/reading circles or clubs and shar-
ing promotes passion for reading competition helping readers
select good books. The respondents were of the voice, “We
share information and exchange books to read in our friends
reading circles/club. We read books on Islam to learn its basic
and fundamental principles, dos & donts, life and achieve-
ments of Muslim heroes. It instills us to go ahead and lead to
live a civilized life of a true Muslim citizen.”
After graduating, the secondary school students are expected
to assume the social responsibilities of an adult. Therefore, they
seem to be entering into real life perceiving its facts and reali-
ties—pleasures and pains. They need to develop scientific atti-
tude and critical thinking for living a progressive and successful
life. An obvious majority of the respondents stated, “Reading
books on science and scientific inventions promotes rationality
in our thinking. It leads us towards developing scientific atti-
tude even in our social life. It helps us avoid superstitions and
we try to seek specific cause to every happening in life. It helps
us differentiate between right and wrong.”
They further asserted, “Reading a new book helps us in en-
hancing our vocabulary. We come to know the meaning of new
words, phrases and phrasal verbs with context of their use. It
gives direction to our thinking leading to actions and resulting
in our accepted attitudes and behaviors.”
It is generally said that beauty is an artistic phenomenon
which comes from one’s inside. It is reflected in terms of aes-
thetic and poetic styles. The respondents’ age group is assumed
to be full of hopes and aspirations and they seem to be inter-
ested in reading poetry and lovely reading materials. Secondary
school students showed their aesthetic sense by indicating,
Books on poetry enhance our aesthetic sense which leads us to
see the world in beautified and optimistic way and we can feel
the beauty of nature around us. It prepares us to feel the pleas-
ures and pains of real life and to express same in heart loving
manner. It helps us to set high hopes for overcoming despera-
Naturally human being seeks guidance to live a successful
and productive life and historically has been following someone
as ideal. There are different great leaders, thinkers & philoso-
phers, reformers and scholars whom people idealize and love to
follow. The respondents expressed their love for their ideals
and they preferred books such great personalities. They were of
the view, “Books on heroes in history inspire us not only to set
high aims but also to struggle for higher achievements in life.
We idealize these personalities and learn how to follow them
and spread their message/ideology and/or philosophy to help
people get out of their miseries.”
In Pakistan secondary schools have scarce reading facilities.
Different factors seem to be responsible for such deficiency and
create lot of problems for students. The students articulated a
number of factors which hindered their reading. They voiced,
We do not have a proper library in school. Our school library
consists of two or three almirahs in a classroom, staff room
and/or science laboratory having a few old torn off books
which are not issued to us. We spend library period in school
without reading even a newspaper. Access to newspaper is
limited to teachers only and in some schools it is rarely avail-
In schools students have to study different courses/textbooks
according to academic calendar. They have to go for home
tuition and prepare for the annual and/ or final examination to
get high marks. I such circumstances they have less time for
reading other than their textbooks or notes prepared for the
getting through the examination. It effects on their reading and
reading preferences. Most of the respondents explained it as,
We have to cover the courses and complete home work of
almost all (eight/ten) subjects. It takes too much time to read a
book other than a textbook/course book. Similarly, we have to
go for home tuition and prepare for getting through final ex-
amination thinking scarcely about extra reading—novel, poetry,
history, magazine and/or newspaper.”
General knowledge appears to be necessary for every indi-
vidual of society but secondary school students are expected to
acquire basic information about their country, people & places
and every day science. It can be promoted by arranging class
competitions. But students indicated the situation by expressing,
A fewer literary competitions are organized in our schools. In
a way we are kept away from books on general knowledge,
science and geography.”
Guidance is necessary for everyone in life but secondary
school students need proper guidance in selecting books to read.
Such guidance is rarely provided in schools which results in
poor reading and readability of students. In almost all of the
sampled schools the respondents recorded their reservations by
saying, “No one guides us what to read and why. Consequently
we read what we have or come across and think better for us.
Teachers emphasize on completion of course/textbooks and
home work; parents expect high scores and always advise to
keep on preparing for the examinations banning on extra read-
ing even a newspaper.”
In short, the respondents appeared to be very keen on reading
and they showed their reading preferences in almost all aca-
demic areas including religion and scientific books. They
seemed to be assertive in describing their problems and factors
which affected on their reading and reading preferences—cost
of books, covering syllabi and preparing for examinations etc.
In overall, the respondents expressed their diversified reading
preferences. Generally, they preferred to read books on Islam,
traveling stories, science and literature—novels, and romantic
stories & books, autobiographies, poetry and newspaper &
magazines. They read such materials for getting pleasure th-
rough edutainment killing their leisure time and adopting it as
pastime hobby for emotional gratification. However, their par-
ents, teachers and friends helped and advised them select books
to read according to their age and context. Likewise, different
factors impacted on their reading and they faced lot of problems
like poor conditions of school libraries, workload, cost and
availability of books, personal interests and time & time man-
agement etc.
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