Children's perceptions of reading

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Reading and Language Arts


Diane J. Sawyer


Literacy, Reading instruction, First-graders

Subject Categories

Reading and Language


This is a study of first graders' perceptions of reading. The purpose of this research was to examine how students think about reading. In this study I systematically examined first grade students' perceptions of reading and how these perceptions came to be. Data collection consisted of participant observation, in-depth interviewing and document analysis.

Participant observations were conducted in three first grade classrooms in a suburban school district in Central New York. In addition, participant observations extended to other appropriate settings such as lunchrooms, PTA meetings, field trips, libraries, faculty rooms, the school playground, and children's homes in an effort to better understand children's perceptions of reading.

Additionally, unstructured, open-ended interviews were conducted throughout the study with the three teachers and the children in their classrooms, and extended to other teachers, administrators, special service staff and parents.

The data were analyzed in a qualitative method using symbolic interaction as the theoretical framework. Analysis of data was ongoing, and continued throughout the study.

Results of this study indicate that: (1) First graders have a very rich and valid understanding of reading. (2) First graders discuss a great deal of information pertaining to a number of aspects of reading including: (a) What they do in reading (tasks); (b) How they learn to read (process); (c) How well they are doing; (d) How they feel about reading; (e) Reading at home and reading in school, and (f) Purpose for reading. (3) The reading tasks that children are involved in at school significantly shape their perceptions of reading. (4) First graders have process perceptions that are heavily dominated by phonic interpretation of the reading process. (5) First graders' understanding of the reading process goes beyond decoding known and unknown words. These same first graders' perceptions also suggest that they have a deep sense of reading for meaning. (6) First graders have developed several purposes for reading. The purposes generated include: informational, environmental, recreational, and instructional. (7) First graders' perceptions of reading are influenced by how well they are doing, and these perceptions greatly influence how they feel about themselves as readers.

Implications for both theory and practice are discussed.


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