What is Reading? Children's Perspectives on Reading in a Primary School.

DOXEY, Cara (2023). What is Reading? Children's Perspectives on Reading in a Primary School. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00588


Drawing on research findings from an ethnographic study conducted with children in a primary school, this thesis examines how 9- and 10-year-olds experience, think and feel about reading in a Year 5 classroom in the north of England. Informed by sociocultural perspectives on literacy, this study explored children’s perspectives on reading activities and strategies in their school. A history of reading in primary schools in England provides context for the study and I consider the influence of statutory and non-statutory guidance since the introduction of The Education Act in 1988 (DfEE), looking at how classroom practice has been shaped in response to governance and monitoring. Against a backdrop of high-stakes testing, with pressure on schools and teachers to achieve improved outcomes, I explore what reading has become for the children in Amber class. Over the course of an 8-month period, I visited Amber class to learn about the children’s views of reading and observe reading in the classroom. Children’s voices were privileged through the use of photo-elicitation interviews and their contributions formed the focus of the study. Participant observation and photographs were used to clarify particular themes and data were analysed using thematic analysis. This process highlighted four themes: purpose, time, choice and progress. Recognising identities as social, fluid and multiple (Atkinson, 2017), I examined how the children were positioned through the activities and strategies used to teach reading and considered the range of identities made available to them in school: staged reader, accurate reading and pleasure reader. Findings highlighted that the children recognised the purpose of reading in school was to improve future life chances with success in exams. ‘Good’ readers were generally identified in relation to reading skills such as decoding and comprehension techniques associated with exam success. Progress was a key consideration and the children positioned themselves against each other and in relation to the hierarchical approach to reading adopted in the school. This had a range of consequences for those at the lower end of the hierarchy who struggled with confidence and self-esteem. Although the children valued reading for pleasure, this did not appear to be a priority. Additionally, it was assumed that reading involved decoding physical texts and wider references to reading involving images and digital texts were minimal. In light of these findings, recommendations are made for developing a broader understanding of what counts as reading in school.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Burnett, Cathy [0000-0001-6087-244X]
Thesis advisor - Taylor, Roberta [0000-0002-2924-8216]
Additional Information: Director of Studies: Professor Cathy Burnett Supervisor: Dr Roberta Taylor
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00588
Depositing User: Justine Gavin
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2024 11:47
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2024 02:01
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/33361

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