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Background to the Study

Reading is an activity which helps to develop the mind and personality of human beings and ultimately enriches their intellectual lives. As students learn to enjoy reading, learning becomes relevant and in that way improves their reading ability and self concept. The act of reading is an act of communication and interpretation. Reading according to McArthur (1996) is a process of extracting meaning from written or printed language.  This implies that reading involves complex activities which the eyes, the mind, the brain or the central nervous system collaborates in the process of perceiving, analyzing, reasoning, interpreting and solving.  Reading concerns both explicit meaning and implicit meaning. That is, the reader must be able to translate and interpret the written words into meaningful language that will help him solve his educational, social, emotional and political problems.

It is against this background that both the Universal Basic Education (Nigeria, 2000) and the National Policy on Education (Nigeria, 2004) emphasized basic functional literacy as one of the key objectives of the child’s education.  Researches have shown that one of the ways of achieving functional literacy is through free voluntary reading.  Free voluntary reading is variously called leisure reading or pleasure reading.  Krashan (1993:X) provides an operational definition of free voluntary reading as “the reading you are doing because you want to”.  According to him, in this type of reading students are free to choose the reading resources they want to read, choose not to report in class on the reading they have done.  One can add to this definition by noting that free voluntary reading refers to reading one does without being compelled to do so.  It is the reading one does for the joy of it.  This type of reading is anxiety free and it is not entirely for utilitarian or vocational bases.  A student reads for pleasure when the student reads book that are not entirely recommended by the curriculum.  It is a reading a student does not in anticipation for any examination but for the joy of it and when the student always and persistently does that he will cultivate the habit of pleasure reading.

Many factors combined to develop robust free voluntary reading habit.  These include provision of varied and relevant reading materials, access to reading materials, motivational reading experiences and conducive environment.

In this regard, the role of school libraries is vital as libraries provide access for reading materials and programmes that encourage reading.  The school library or school library media centre is a systematically organized collection of learning resources consisting of print and non print information materials supporting educational activities in the school (Kolade, 1998).  School library is the type of library found in the primary, and secondary schools.

School library collection are information materials collected, processed, and organized for use for the promotion of educational activities and implementation of the curriculum in the school.  School library collection can be variously referred to as reading resources, reading materials or information materials.  These reading resources include textbooks in different subjects, supplementary books, reference books, pamphlets, story books, government documents, newspapers, and magazines, non-print materials like motion picture, films strips, video tapes, record players, computers and digital resources.

For the purpose of this study, school library collection are grouped into three major heading namely; non-fiction, fiction and periodicals.  Non-fiction reading resources include all recommended textbooks and reference books in different subjects recommended for the achievement of the curriculum and all educational activities in the school.  Fiction materials are books with imaginative themes, titles and characters and they include romance novel, adventure books, myth and legends, fantasy tales, stories about people and families, sports sorties and science fiction.  Periodicals are materials on topical issues and they include newspapers and magazines.

Access to these reading materials especially fiction, newspapers and magazines will whet adolescent reading appetite and motivate them to read.  There is a relationship between print access and print exposure and the amount of free voluntary reading done by students.  The size of the collection equally has an influence on the reader.  For free voluntary reading to be inculcated and maintain in students, large and relevant collection` of fiction and periodicals must be provided in the school library.  Students in schools with larger collection made better gains in reading.  Although people can pick any book that attract their eyes and read at one time or the other, fiction books had been consistently proved to be important resource in the inculcation and improvement of free voluntary reading in students.  Traw  (1993) revealed in his study that when students were given freedom to choose books for pleasure reading, they chose fiction books on sports, romance, mystery, violence and fantasy.

Apart from provision of reading materials, school libraries provide reading programmes that motivate students to read for pleasure.  Reading programmes are reading activities school libraries provide to create awareness of the collection and motivate students to read for pleasure. They are reading experiences provided in the school library to encourage students’ use of the collection and inculcate free voluntary reading habits in students.  These programmes include display, exhibition, access to reading materials, lending of books, storytelling, debate, book talks (Carbo and Cole 1995) Engaging students in variety of reading experiences through book talks, readers theatre, storytelling will help students develop habit of listening, comprehension and recall.  Students’ participation in debate and book club will challenge them to read widely and seek information in the library.

Providing equity of access to reading resources, engaging authors’ visits, and supporting books fairs, exhibition and displays are means to building lifelong readers.  Specifically reading promotion is one of the cardinal roles of school library (Dike, 1998).  The federal government document on Minimum Standards for School Libraries (1992: 9&10) recognized this role. Four out of the nine contributions expected of the school libraries in Nigeria are on reading development.  According to the Minimum Standard, school libraries:

  • Promote the development of reading skills and encourage long term learning habits through reading, listening to and viewing a variety of learning materials. Reading habits form the key to continuous success in school as well as personal enrichment of the student/pupils.
  • Provide opportunities for further reading and use of materials other than prescribed classroom textbooks.
  • Stimulate research and independent study by providing a wide variety of materials so that it does not only supply information in printed form, but also in pictures, films, tapes etc.  This makes learning more exciting.
  • Provide materials for recreation and encourage students/pupils to read for pleasure.

Free voluntary reading also helps student in the acquisition of other language skills, success in their academic, improved reading ability, vocabulary knowledge, emotional stability, enjoyment of leisure hours, and increased knowledge of political, economical and social issues in his environment.

The secondary school age is that of adolescence, which is a transitional period between childhood and adulthood. Piaget (1998) and Erickson (1998) in their different studies identified general characteristics of adolescents as formal operations, redefinition of friendship and the growth of self awareness.  The adolescent departs from concrete thinking to thinking in formal operations which are characterized with servicing of one’s thought processes and personality characteristics, questioning of the meaning of political structures, religious ideologies, analyses of nature of feelings such as love and hate, and to attempt to understand the significance of life itself. Formal operations is a time of hypothetical-deductive reasoning which allows the adolescent to set up a variety of hypotheses, rank them in order of probability and then test them to generate alternatives when dealing with a problem.

The adolescent at this stage redefines friendship. There is a shift from external, action-oriented concepts of friendship to those that are internal and communication oriented.  They make friends on the basis of personal qualities.  They see relationship as an opportunity to satisfy their need to communicate physical changes, changed social roles and expectations, and intellectual changes related to formal reasoning all combined to challenge the adolescent to integrate the past, present, and future in order to establish a stable and consistent sense of self. This is called crisis of identity. These characteristics and changes come with personal needs adolescents seek to satisfy.

Arbuthnot (1964) enumerated some of the basic needs of adolescents which they struggle to satisfy thus: competence, material security, emotional security, acceptance, play and aesthetic satisfaction. Struggling to satisfy his needs, the adolescent is seeking to maintain the balance between personal happiness and social approval, and this is not an easy task. Reading materials in different format can help him directly or indirectly to meet some of these needs.  Aguolu and Aguolu (2000) posit that without successful growth emotionally, mentally, socially and physically during this intermediate state of human development, their adulthood will be jeopardized. Therefore adolescents need to move beyond basic literacy to critical and recreational reading. Adolescents need to read judiciously in other to answer most of their questions and satisfy their needs.  Free voluntary reading is the key to life-long reading which result to personal development and enrichment, community development and knowledge of other people and the world.  In free voluntary reading, the adolescents are exposed to wider and broader reading through which they acquire knowledge of how others in their stage of development master and solve their problems.

In Imo State, secondary school students are not reading for pleasure as they should.  Most of the students do not engage in free voluntary reading rather they spent many hours viewing television programmes and home videos rather than engage in literacy activities.  Students read mostly to pass examinations and this is why they quickly stopped reading immediately they finished examinations.  This attitude to free voluntary reading might be the cause to mass failures in examination, lack of mastery in grammar and self expression, lack of self concept and disengagement from school.

Many factors had been attributed to be the cause of poor attitude to reading by students. These include dearth of interesting reading materials, poor reading culture in the society, poverty, illiteracy, lack of reading on the time table, lack of library hour on the time table, poor educational system which is examination oriented.

As a result of these problems of reading, there had been reading promotional programmes launched at various times by Reading Association of Nigeria (RAN) and National Library of Nigeria (NLN).  These promotional programmes had not yielded enough desired effect because theory is not practice. The talks were not merged with provision of books and establishment of reading programmes in the schools. Before students formed habit of reading, they must be provided with favourable reading environment in the school as the home is void of this.

The importance of school library in the promotion of free voluntary reading cannot be sufficiently emphasized. Outside Nigeria much research work had been done on the relationship of school libraries and free voluntary reading.  These studies revealed that where school libraries exist, they are major sources of reading materials (Krashan, 1993). They further found that access to school libraries results in more reading and that large and relevant school library collection result in higher reading scores and increased circulation.  Through their programmes and activities, school libraries promote free voluntary reading among students. In Nigeria as well Obi (1997) affirmed that a school library plays an important role in reading promotion when other libraries are remote and the home contains limited materials. From the forgoing, it is evident that school libraries in Nigeria are expected to play major roles in the promotion of free voluntary reading. In view of all these, this study will focus on school library collection and programmes and free voluntary reading of secondary schools students in Imo State.


Statement of the Problem

Free voluntary reading is the major source of reading competence, vocabulary development, and ability to handle complex grammatical construction.  It supports students’ success in school, broadens their knowledge, develops their interest in reading, and helps them acquire abilities for continuous and life-long learning. Through reading students discover the treasures in books that help them in their health, social, political, economic and intellectual lives. In spite of these benefits the pre-research observations of the researcher revealed that most secondary school students in Imo State do not engage in free voluntary reading as they should. Students spent much time in watching television and video programmes. They are so addicted to this that they have no time for literacy activities like reading for pleasure.  They read most times to pass their examinations.

Failure to cultivate good reading habits and skills through free voluntary reading has contributed to high failure rate in junior and senior secondary school examinations, students’ sudden disengagement from schooling and their failure to continue reading after schooling.  If this scenario is not checked, the country at large and Imo State in particular will be filled with adolescents whose potentials are not realized and this will have negative effect on them economically, educationally, politically and socially. There is need to avoid this by exploiting facilities in the school that will help to inculcate free voluntary reading habit in students in order to equip them adequately to succeed in their schooling, cope in this technological era that demands continuous reading for lifelong education and develop aesthetic values and insight into life.  It is the view of the researcher that the knowledge of the influence of school library collections and programmes on free voluntary reading of secondary school students in Imo State will be useful in providing solutions to students’ readership culture.

Research in a number of countries has found that libraries are associated with better reading.  However there is dearth of research on the relationship of school library collection and programmes and free voluntary reading in Nigeria. This knowledge gap in Nigeria prompted the present study.


Objectives of the study


The general purpose of the study is to investigate the relationship among school library collection, programmes and free voluntary reading of secondary school students in Imo State.  The specific objectives of the study therefore are to:

  1. Establish the free voluntary reading level of secondary school students.
  2. Indentify the school library collections available for students’ free voluntary reading in Imo State.
  3. Identify the reading programmes employed to promote free voluntary reading among secondary school students in Imo State.
  4. Establish the influence of school library collections on free voluntary reading of secondary school students in Imo State.
  5. Establish the influence of school library programmes on free voluntary reading of students in Imo State.
  6. Identify constraints to free voluntary reading among secondary school students in Imo State.
  7. Identify steps that school library can take to improve free voluntary reading among secondary school students in Imo State.




Research Questions

The research questions that guided this study are:

  1. What is the level of free voluntary reading of secondary school students in Imo State?
  2. What are the school library collections available for students’ free voluntary reading in Imo State?
  3. What school library reading programmes are employed to promote free voluntary reading of secondary school students in Imo State?
  4. What is the influence of school library collections on free voluntary reading in Imo State?
  5. What is the influence of school library reading programmes on free voluntary reading of secondary school students in Imo State?
  6. What are the constraints to free voluntary reading of secondary school students in Imo State?
  7. What steps can school libraries take to improve free voluntary reading in Imo state schools?



The following two hypothesis formulated to guide this study were tested at 0.05 level significance.

Ho1:     There is no significant influence of school library collections on students’ free voluntary reading.

Ho2:     There is no significant influence of reading programmes on students’ free voluntary reading.



Significance of the Study

This study will be useful to the government, school administrators, school principals, teacher librarians, students, other stakeholders of education and librarians.

From the findings of this work, the government and school administrators will be able to know the level of free voluntary reading habits of students in Imo State.  If the finding is negative, through the recommendations of the study, they will be able to know steps they will take to increase reading levels of students.

The findings of this study will reveal the library collection available for free voluntary reading.  Based on such information, government will access the adequacy of library collection and make effort in improving on the collection knowing that the size of the collection affects the reading levels of students.

The two theories reviewed in the study will provide the government and all stakeholders of education the relevance of enriching the learner’s reading environment with reading resources and reading programmes that are relevant to the promotion of free voluntary reading among students in Imo State.

The study will identify various programmes school libraries can employ in order to create love of reading in students.  The programmes so outlined will help teacher librarians improve on their services to students and this will increase usage of the resources by students.

It is also expected that the findings of this study will go a long way in validating theories necessary for upliftment and practice of librarianship in the modern era as reviewed in the work.


Scope of the Study

This study is de-limited geographically to Imo State.  It covered school libraries in the public secondary schools (including state and federal schools) in Imo State.  In terms of content, the study was limited to school libraries collection,  programmes and  free voluntary reading of secondary school students with a view of obtaining information on levels of students free voluntary reading, reading resources available in school libraries for free voluntary reading; reading programmes offered in the school libraries;  influence of collections on free voluntary reading influence of reading programmes on free voluntary reading; constraints on free voluntary reading and steps to be taken by school libraries to improve students free voluntary reading.  The population scope was students and teacher librarians in the