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The Self, the Book, the World

One of the most vital jobs of a teacher is to help students to see that there is so much more going on in a book than just the squiggles of writing on the pages. We need to help young adults understand that between those covers are the world—past, present, and future—and the emotion and complexity of the human condition. As educators, we need to help students to see that inside these provocative books are stories that can help us to better understand ourselves, who we are and who we want to become. And by doing that within a community of learners we can help students (and ourselves) learn to act to make a better world. Teaching for social responsibility with good books does far more than encourage civic participation; it redefines the purpose of school and empowers all of us—students, teachers, administrators, parents—to be better people and live more Omega Seamaster Replica( fulfilling lives. And in that process we create, individually and collectively, a more caring and thoughtful and democratic society. It all starts with a book.

Decent research has focused on student motivation and reading habits in the middle school years (Ediger, 2001; Hughes-Hassell & Rodge, 2007; Ivey & Broaddus, 2001; Krashen, 2004; Leppanen, Aunola, & Nurmi, 2005; Love & Hamston, 2003, 2004; Malach & Rutter, 2003; McKool, 2007; Verhoeven & Snow, 2001; Wang & Guthrie, 2004). These studies have found that students who receive high scores on reading tests and succeed in other measures in school present high intrinsic motivation to read and often read on a regular basis outside of school. In one review of literature on independent reading, Cullinan (2000) summarized more than a dozen large- and small-scale studies presenting evidence of a strong connection between independent reading and school success, measured in a variety of ways.

In a now-classic study included in the review, scholars concluded, “among all the ways children spent their time, reading books is the best predictor of measures of reading achievement, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and reading speed, including gains in reading comprehension between second and fifth grade” (Anderson, Fielding, & Wilson, 1988, p. 285). Factors such as reading aloud with parents, availability of reading materials, and other forms of parental support for reading, as well as student reading ability, are found to affect motivation to read (Bus, 2001; Ivey & Broaddus, 2001; Love & Hamston, 2004; Verhoeven & Snow, 2001). However, research suggests independent reading significantly decreases in the middle school years (Ivey & Broaddus, 2001; McCoy, 1991). This decrease is found to be particularly strong among boys and students of color (Brozo, 2002; Compton-Lilly, 2003; Ferguson, 2001; Love & Hamston, 2003, 2004; Noguera, 2003; Valdes, 1996). One possible factor explored by researchers is the prominence of peer relationships and identity development in the choices students make to be avid or reluctant readers (Dance, 2002; Ferguson, 2001; Gee, 1996; Kunjufu, 1988; Noguera, 2003; Valdes, 1996). Given the importance of reading to school success, additional research in these areas is needed.

The present study explores connections between interest and engagement with reading among teen and preteen students in an urban setting, peer relationships, and identity development. For this inquiry, I chose and interviewed 10 of my former fourth-or Porsche Design Replica Watches( fifth-grade students (I taught these grades for eight years in large city public school districts, before turning to educational research full-time), their parents, and their current teachers, and analyzed themes in the data using a theoretical framework with explanatory power around issues of identity, a conception Gee (1996) called acquisition of secondary Discourses.

The findings from these data, which are developed into case studies of 11- to 13-year-olds in the same small school, suggest that independent reading is a social practice in significant ways, and students choose to read or not to read based not only on ability, nor solely on parental support, but also on complex questions of identity and interest in the cultivation of particular peer and adult relationships. Following the findings of this study, and Gee’s theory of Discourses, I hypothesize that adolescents benefit if teachers view reading as a public act and use strategies that acknowledge reading as social, perhaps contributing to the positive identity development of adolescents.

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