Engaging basals and tradebooks: Fourth graders preferences and responses to excerpted and nonexcerpted stories

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Reading and Language Arts


Donald J. Leu


Basal, Stories, Tradebooks, Fourth graders

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Elementary Education and Teaching


The purpose of this study was to determine upper elementary children's preferences and responses to literature when introduced to literature selections found in either a basal reading series or a published tradebook.

To determine children's initial preferences for excerpted or nonexcerpted text, preference questionnaires were administered to six 4th grade classrooms. Students determined whether they preferred the excerpted version of the novel Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder as found in a basal reader to the actual novel Little House on the Prairie.

To examine the nature of 4th grade children's spoken responses, eighteen students from a selected classroom were divided into two discussion groups that engaged in the discussion method of Grand Conversations. One group read and responded to stories, excerpted and nonexcerpted, from a 4th grade basal reader. The other group read and responded to all of the chapters in the novel, Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Data analysis was both quantitative and qualitative. Percentages were calculated for student responses to questions on the initial response questionnaire. Transcripts of student conversations were analyzed with the use of the constant comparative method.

Students indicated preferences for the actual novel over the excerpted version of the novel Farmer Boy. Three major response patterns emerged from transcripts of conversations students had about stories, excerpted and nonexcerpted, from the basal reader and the nonexcerpted novel Farmer Boy. First, student conversations about all stories from the basal reader and the novel itself reflected the development of a community of readers whose talk reflected both aesthetic reading and critical thinking. Second, when reading stories from the basal reader, student responses to some excerpted stories reflected a disappointment with the literary quality of the story. Third, when reading the novel Farmer Boy, student responses indicated a preference for chapters containing a high level of drama. Many students indicated a dislike for chapters that were primarily descriptive in nature.

The results of this study suggest that given students' initial preference for tradebook versions of a literature selection, the inclusion of such materials can benefit children's reading. This study also suggests that what is most important is a consideration of the literary quality of the text and not whether it is excerpted or nonexcerpted, in a basal reader or a tradebook. Finally, although a literature selection is a tradebook, it may not meet the needs of all children in a classroom.


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