Reading, literature and culture: A case study of middle school students' responses to African American fiction for children

Wanda Michelle Brooks, University of Pennsylvania


Reading experiences and instruction, on the whole, are unable to mold many African American youth into the types of readers teachers long to have in their classrooms. Many of these African American students are unable to achieve academically in other subjects because of their low reading achievement. As a consequence, they lose interest in school. As a way to better understand African American students' reading problems as well as processes, the research reported herein focuses on a curricular approach aimed at enriching the reading experiences of students. The research specifically explores how incorporating African American literature into a reading classroom is responded to and interpreted by African American, middle school children. Four qualitative research methods were used to gather data for the present study: (1) audiotaping and transcribing literature discussions, (2) collecting written journal responses, (3) observing and gathering field notes, and (4) maintaining a self-reflective journal. Three core findings were gained from this research. First, features from the African American literary tradition are identifiable in children's books by and about African Americans. Second, these features become salient to some African American children while reading and influence their constructions of meaning. Lastly, some African American children rely on several types and sources of prior cultural knowledge when making sense of books by and about African Americans. The present study concludes that African American children's literature contains significant promise with respect to influencing and enhancing African American middle school students' reading processes and subsequent development. Implications for practice and further research are discussed.

Subject Area

Reading instruction|Language arts|Black studies|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Brooks, Wanda Michelle, "Reading, literature and culture: A case study of middle school students' responses to African American fiction for children" (2001). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3014301.