Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Reading and Language Arts


Kathleen A. Hinchman


Elementary Education, Language Arts, Literacy Instruction, Literacy Specialists, Reading Instruction, Reading Specialists

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities



The purpose of this qualitative interview study was to explore the narratives of 22 elementary reading specialists about their work. It asked: What were reading specialists’ narratives about their work and their influences? The study looked at reading specialists’ day-to-day functioning within an institution and at reading specialists’ interactions with students and colleagues. It considered how these mostly White women teachers were influenced by personal, professional, political, and social contexts they encountered within the institutions where they worked and the communities in which they lived.

This study was grounded in sociocultural traditions associated with inquiry into narrative. These perspectives provided a lens for understanding how participants’ narratives were shaped by their histories, work in schools, and affiliation with government and community institutions, and by larger sociocultural forces such as gender, race, and class. Data sources included transcripts from in-depth semi-structured interviews with each participant, which were analyzed using the constant comparison method to identify participants’ narratives and historical, institutional, and sociocultural themes within and across these narratives.

Reading specialists’ work has been described as fulfilling four roles: instruction, assessment, resource to teachers, and leadership. The narratives contained herein reflect participants’ enactment of those roles. Participants used three main narratives, reflecting leadership, finding a niche, and teaching and collaborating, each of which revealed larger historical, institutional, and sociocultural entities that shaped the reading specialist position.

This study is significant because, while much has been written about the multifaceted roles of reading specialists, how their complex lives work is little understood. These findings have implications for school professionals, teacher education programs, and researchers who are interested in developing clarity in reading specialists’ work life expectations, as well as in training individuals whose interpersonal acumen, versatility, and literacy pedagogy prepare them for these complex positions. The findings also have implications for scholars who are interested in how various individuals participate in the complex, often under-resourced organizational cultures of schools.


Open Access