Theses Doctoral

Strong Readers’ Beginnings: Identifying the Agencies and Individuals Who Influence Reading Lives

Golland, Rachel Alisa

While there exists substantial research on struggling and developmental readers, few research-practitioners have sought to examine the histories and circumstances that result in strong readers. This study drew upon the reading autobiographies of doctoral students in an English Education program at an Ivy League institution, in order to discover what can be learned from first-hand narrative accounts of their reading lives about the early literacy experiences, reading practices, family, community, school and cultural influences of a group of “strong” adult readers. Also examined for comparative and contrasting data are the reading lives of remedial and honors first-year college composition students at a 2-year community college.

An understanding of how the environments, people, institutions, circumstances, and texts encountered in the literacy lives of the three different groups studied here can assist literacy educators in bridging theory with practice for the teaching of reading in early grades and for the teaching of college-level reading in first-year college writing classes. A central term and concept to help explain the trajectory of the reading lives of the populations studied here was Deborah Brandt’s (1998) theory of “sponsors of literacy.” Brandt’s terminology and the notion of sponsorship along with a sociocultural theoretical framework are used to interpret the reading autobiographies in this study. Methods employed were based on Connelly and Clandinin’s narrative inquiry approach, a methodology steeped in the richness of the storied lives of the participants. The three patterns that emerged in the strong readers’ memories were: (a) being read to in the home prior to school age; (b) dichotomous attitudes toward in-school and out-of-school reading, especially around the middle school years; and (c) evidence of firm productive habits of mind toward complex reading that extends into the higher education years. The early literacy sponsorship and productive habits of mind were less evidenced in the remedial population. The findings of certain common characteristics and practices in the backgrounds of strong readers, many of which were not present at the same level in the remedial readers, can help literacy educators and caregivers re-examine their role as literacy sponsors and offer approaches for how we might sponsor literacy differently to create strong readers at any stage of their education.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English Education
Thesis Advisors
Blau, Sheridan
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 5, 2019