Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Ebony E. Thomas


This study primarily explores the types of books African American children in a local fourth grade classroom like and enjoy. Books students are interested in reading and other related aspects that contribute to their literary enjoyment are also explored. It is during the upper elementary years that many students who eventually express little or no preference for reading first “become ambivalent toward reading… because they [can] no longer find reading material that interest[s] them” (Davila and Patrick, 2010, p. 200). Even when children select a book on their own, they are almost always selecting from books preselected for them by adults (librarians, teachers, booksellers, publishers, parents, etc.). Encisco, Wolf, Coats, and Jenkins (2010) refer to the heavy adult influence in children’s literature as “a shadow” that never truly departs (p. 259). As a result, children’s voices tend to be ignored in a field that supposedly exists for them. Applying a student voice lens and critical ethnographic approach, this dissertation considers the research question from a variety of method sources.

Participant observation, surveys, interviews, book club discussions, book logs, and circulation records are analyzed and compared to better understand the topic presented. Emphasis is placed on book genres, formats, and elements that potentially contribute to student enjoyment, as well as the impact of students’ reading environment. The results reveal participants’ enjoyment of realistic fiction, comedy, horror, biography, and science nonfiction books. While chapter books proved to be the most enjoyed format by frequency, longer visual texts (comics, graphic novels, and multimodal books) were considered to be the participants’ favorite format. Also, a book’s characters were found to be the most important book element contributing to liking/enjoying a book. Findings regarding other aspects of literary enjoyment include a desire for comfortable seating, outdoor reading, and freedom to choose their own books. Topics of leveling policies, peer influence, and how adults contribute to and/or obstruct joyful reading experiences are also discussed. The overall goal of conducting this research was to explore and provide information regarding literature children in this demographic may be more inclined to enjoy.

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