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"I love to read!": Self-selection as the driving force of a reading program for middle school students

Virginia M Goncalo, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The purpose of the study was to describe the process through which young adult students selected their own books and responded to the reading material in a literature classroom. I studied the factors that contribute to understanding adolescents' self-selection methods. I investigated what they chose to read and why. This study serves to inform further instructional research in the young adult selection of literary texts as a way of personalizing reading by tailoring it to their own tastes and interests as young adults. The adolescents in the yearlong study were students in a middle school set in a rural New England town. The sample included 19 seventh grade students and 25 eighth grade students who participated in one 50 minute class each week in which students chose books, read and responded to books, gave talks about books and authors, read aloud from books, discussed book preferences and dislikes and presented literary projects. In order to understand these students' book selection processes, the following aspects were investigated in the study: (1) What these young adults told us about their book selection. That is, how they felt about choosing their books in contrast to being assigned literary material to read. (2) How these adolescents selected books. How they discovered what books appealed to them as well as what made them continue to read a book. (3) What effect these students' interests in reading books had on the selections they made and the responses they made to their reading. (4) How family, peers and teachers influenced these adolescents in the types of books they chose to read. Qualitative research methods were used to collect and analyze data. My role was participant observer each week during the class period and daily in the school halls and library. I kept field notes describing the young people's interaction with books. Data collection consisted of recording what students said and did as they chose and discussed books with their peers and teachers. Dialogue journals were kept to indicate students' responses to the books they were reading. I examined beginning and end-of-the-year questionnaires as well as analyzed the mid-year interview. I looked at a survey given to parents of students in order to investigate the parents' observations and knowledge of their children's involvement with books. Data were also collected from the seventh and the eighth grade teachers and media specialist who kept their own journals, took part in interviews and met regularly with me to discuss students' book selections. Results indicated that more than half the students preferred selecting their own books rather than have teachers choose for them. The adolescents became cognizant of the ways that they selected books from a diverse collection that the teachers had available for them. We heard the testimony of the adolescents voicing their tastes in books as well as the reasons why these texts interested them. The teenagers revealed that they shared books and interests with a variety of people including parents, siblings, extended family, peers, and friends. An integral part of the self-selection program was the student/teacher interaction around books in response journals and conversation about literature that was personally appealing and satisfying.

Subject Area

Literacy|Reading instruction

Recommended Citation

Goncalo, Virginia M, ""I love to read!": Self-selection as the driving force of a reading program for middle school students" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9809338.