I am so very pleased to announce that I have been officially confirmed as a PhD candidate in the School of Information and Communication Studies at Charles Sturt University. In this blog post, I will share my research project plans, questions, and hopes.
Firstly, some logistical information. My research project is called:
Factors affecting the teacher librarian’s influence on reading cultures in schools.
My main research question is: “What factors affect the teacher librarian’s influence on reading cultures in schools?”
I have three sub-questions, each identifies and explores a factor that might affect the teacher librarian’s (TL) influence on reading cultures in schools:
- How does a student’s reading identity shape the influence of the TL?
- How do the staff and students perceive and experience the reading culture in their school?
- What underlying structures and systems in the school are evident that either help or hinder the TL’s influence?
I plan to use a survey to collect data from students in years 7 to 9 and staff from three girls schools. I will use the student surveys to categorise students into reading identities – avid readers, proficient readers, struggling readers, and reluctant readers – and will then invite two students from each category to a follow-up interview. Staff that identify at the end of their survey that they are interested in attending an interview will be invited. I hope to also interview the TL and library staff, and the principal.
So, why influence…? why reading cultures…? why girls’ schools…? Well…
TLs have long been harnessing the power of their influence in their schools. La Marca (2004) referred to TLs as enabling adults when encouraging students to read for pleasure. Merga (2017) gave TLs the label of social agents and noted the important work they do as advocates for reading. However, research by Henri and Boyd (2002) suggests that principals can be reluctant to acknowledge the influence that TLs have due to a potential power struggle. Either way, further research into the influence that TLs have and how it is affected by various factors within the school, including student and staff perceptions, and the systems and structures in place, is needed.
Reading cultures are particularly interesting to me. I want to know what is happening within a school with a great reading culture. Is it the TL’s influence, or is due to the school leadership? These questions are explored in the work of Loh et al. (2017), with findings suggesting that school libraries can do a lot to create a culture of reading, but that the principal is an integral part of developing and maintaining this culture. Research into reading cultures in Australian schools is called for by Merga and Ferguson (2021). While I am interested in reading cultures in general, I am especially interested in how the TLs use their influence to create, develop, or maintain these cultures. I am also particularly interested in how students and staff perceive and experience reading cultures.
I believe that the way a person engages with reading and how they self-identify as a reader is important when investigating the influence that TLs have. The way a person sees themselves as a reader will, I think, have an affect on their perceptions and experience of the reading cultures around them. Clark et al. (2008) stated that further research into reading identities is important, especially in the case of girls. I think we can all agree that a substantial amount of research has been conducted into boys and reading, and I think it’s time that girls got a look in too. Especially girls that identify as struggling or reluctant readers.
So, there you have it. A brief explanation of what I’m planning to do and why. I’m excited by my research and I hope that I will be able to produce something that is not only interesting, but has some practical applications for TLs in Australia.
*Feature image from the Pexels library on WordPress*
Clark, C., Osborne, S., & Akerman, R. (2008). Young people’s self-perceptions as readers: An investigation including family, peer and school influences (p. 73). National Literacy Trust.
La Marca, S. (2004). Free voluntary reading and the role of the teacher librarian. IASL Annual Conference Proceedings, 171–183. https://doi.org/10.29173/iasl8049
Loh, C. E., Ellis, M., Paculdar, A. A., & Wan, Z. H. (2017). Building a successful reading culture through the school library: A case study of a Singapore secondary school. IFLA Journal, 43(4), 335–347. https://doi.org/10.1177/0340035217732069
Merga, M. K. (2017). Becoming a reader: Significant social influences on avid book readers. School Library Research, 20, 1–21.
Merga, M. K., & Ferguson, C. (2021). School librarians supporting students’ reading for pleasure: A job description analysis. Australian Journal of Education, 65(2), 153–172. https://doi.org/10.1177/0004944121991275