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Negotiating contexts for reading: becoming 'someone who reads'

Swift, Chelsea (2016) Negotiating contexts for reading: becoming 'someone who reads'. PhD thesis, University of York.

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In the current English education context, it is not enough just to be able to read; what young people read is what sets them apart as being more - or less - literate, cultured or educated than someone else. It is often specific texts, their literary value, and whether or not they represent certain groups, which are central to debates played out through education policy, research, and in the media. This focus on the text is responsible for persistent unsuccessful attempts to redistribute cultural capital and level the playing field through education, failing to take into account the different social and cultural resources young people bring to the classroom. It has led to a deficit model of reading in education which places blame on the individual for failing to understand and appreciate these texts and authors in particular ways, rather than on the school for failing to value their reading lives within the education context. In this research, I shift this lens onto readers themselves, the act of reading, and the contexts in which it takes place. It is concerned with young people's development of a ‘reading habitus’; the extent to which they view reading as being ‘for the likes of them’ and their ways of ‘being’ a reader. I explore how young people negotiate the various ways of reading and being a reader they are exposed to as they move between and within fields, in order to develop a sense for themselves of what counts as reading and what it means to be a reader. Although this research is not concerned with academic outcomes, reading for pleasure is a strong predictor of these outcomes. This, in addition to the social and emotional benefits of reading for pleasure, and the important role that identity plays in motivation and engagement, highlights the importance of researching reading identity in cultural and educational contexts which privilege particular types of reader. In order to generate data, 96 young people (aged 13- 14) completed a whole class critical incident charting activity, mapping out their 'reading journeys'. 28 of these then participated in a series of 2 semi-structured interviews. My findings challenge the broader neoliberal agenda in education and its promises of social mobility through access to a culture of which certain young people have been deprived. Placing emphasis on readers and reading rather than on specific texts, acknowledging the role of the social in acts of reading and learning, challenges the dominant model of reading, and the inequalities it maintains. It demonstrates not only the rich reading lives that many of the young people lead outside of school, but how the current deficit model serves to make these lives invisible, not only in education policy and in the classroom, but often to the young people themselves.  

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Department of Education (York)
Depositing User: Miss Chelsea Swift
Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2016 14:53
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2018 00:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/15327

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