© Mireia Manresa
In this entry we continue with our international guests and an entry which allows us a deeper insight into the connections between the adolescent reading worlds within and outside the school. Dr Mireia Manresa teaches Catalan language and literature at secondary school level. She currently combines teaching in a school that specializes in e-learning (IOC) with teacher-training in the Department of Education for Language and Literature in the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). She is a member of the children’s literature and literary education research group GRETEL led by Dr Teresa Colomer in the UAB. Her lines of research are based on the developing of reading habits in relation to the training of literary readers in compulsory education. She is currently researching children’s digital reading habits in and out of school and readers responses to electronic literature. Her doctoral thesis won the Extraordinary PhD award (Autonomous University of Barcelona, 2010) and the Telémaco Prize, granted by the Department of Education for Language and Literature from Complutense University of Madrid and SM publishing foundation.
Dr Mireia Manresa teaches Catalan language and literature at secondary school level. She currently combines teaching in a school that specializes in e-learning (IOC) with teacher-training in the Department of Education for Language and Literature in the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). She is a member of the children’s literature and literary education research group GRETEL led by Dr Teresa Colomer in the UAB. Her lines of research are based on the developing of reading habits in relation to the training of literary readers in compulsory education. She is currently researching children’s digital reading habits in and out of school and readers responses to electronic literature. Her doctoral thesis won the Extraordinary PhD award (Autonomous University of Barcelona, 2010) and the Telémaco Prize, granted by the Department of Education for Language and Literature from Complutense University of Madrid and SM publishing foundation.
In secondary schools in my country there exists the tradition of programming a work of literatura for every trimester in the subjects of the two oficial languages (Catalan and Spanish). Those in charge of choosing these titles are the teachers in in each school, given that prescriptions do not exist for the titles on the part of the administration in the case of the mandatotry secondary school. As a teacher, I attended my first meeting to decide on these titles in September 1997 in a secondary school near Barcelona and the experience raised certain questions which continue to accompany today. In the first place, I had doubts about the system of programming this reading in itself: if the objective was to have some impact on reading habits, could a sole trimestral title for all students, the reading of which was perceived as an academic activity, lead them to adopting solid reading habits? In second place, I queried the selection criteria for these works of literature: why were titles selected according to the supposed preferences of adolescents and yet academic activities such as exams were also planned? And if the objective was literary education, why were the books not selected according to the literary conventions they exemplified and why were they accompanied by activities that varied so little, such as standard assignment applicable to all the texts?
These questions led me to a first exploratory study situated within the field of reading promotion. I analysed the nearly 3,000 books read by the 1,379 adolescent participants during a reading campaign within a population in Catalonia where a challenge had been raised to read, during a few months, as many books as the number of inhabitants (53,365 at the time, in the year 2000). I complemented the analysis with the data about reading programmes in the town’s schools. Among other results, I observed that a good number of the titles cited by the young people came from the prescribed school list. There was also a coincidence in that the majority of the participants in the reading promotion campaign attended secondary schools where a project of independent and autonomous reading had been carried out (Project ELE) that complemented the obligatory trimestral readings.
I began to observe the need to focus on the relationship between the personal reading habits of the young people and the planning of school readings and this gave rise to the design of my doctoral thesis (Manresa, 2009; Manresa, 2013). The objective was to describe the characteristics of literary reading practices outside the classroom and analize the possible ways in which the school could impact on them. Thus a case study arose, situated in the socio-educational field of research and which was methodologically anchored in diverse lines of enquiry (with Baudelot et al., 1999; Hall & Coles, 1999, and Krashen, 1993, as the main references): a longitudinal study centred on the analysis of the extracurricular reading by the members of three class groups during their three first years of obligatory secondary school education (12-15 years). At the same time, it included the analysis of the impact of a programme of independent reading on the reading habits of those same students.
© Mireia Manresa
I will present some of the examples of the relevant results that fine tune, complement or confirm those of other studies and which lead to implications for the programming of school readings:
The first result to highlight is that ‘strong’ or ‘frequent’ readers (more than 10 books per year) require more attention from the school than it might seem. This is because their reading habit is more fragile than one might suppose despite the large quantity of books they consume. These ‘strong’ or ‘frequent’ readers are a minority within the cohort (5.5% at the age of 12 according to my data) and this situates them in a position that does not incentivise the continuity of their reading activity. It is surely for this reason, among others, that for these readers there is a clear and drastic diminishing of literary reading as they move from the age of 12 to 15. Only a third of this group continue within a ‘moderate reading frequency’ by the end of this period and this third coincides with those who in their first year of secondary (12 years) did not confine themselves to a particular type of texts. Therefore, the diversification and expansion of their reading in school seems to be a necessary route towards solidifying their habits and putting a brake on their declining reading activity.
So what did the adolescents in my study choose to read? The second result that I would like to highlight and which confirms tendencies observed in other research is that the majority of this group exercise little of their own judgement in choosing literature. For the most part they choose the most popular texts, in other words, those that are being read, or have been read, by many other adolescents; texts which also help them read because of the familiarity offered by their narrative patterns. The result of this is that the majority of the young people, no matter whether they read a lot or very little, confine themselves to a particular type of text and thus have quite particular reading skills and quite fragile reading habits. However, this phenomenon has a counterbalance in that it provides a framework of common references that can be exploited in the classroom to create community.
So, if reading habits are so globalized, what differences exist between the Catalan youth of my study and those of other contexts? The answer is, mainly, the baggage of references offered by school reading. This leads to the consideration that, according to the educational tradition in which young people are inscribed, their reading universe can lack certain types of text, such as the more canonical ones or those that are inscribed within certain genres. This points to the need to incorporate complementary criteria for personal reading in the school and also guidance which can help them locate what they like to read: Why not plan a didactic sequence or series of lessons about romantic literature or about vampire literature that includes young adult books of the moment as well as the classic references? Why not develop literary preferences by contrast?
One dimension of the reading habit that is not often taken into account in the majority of studies is the appraisal dimension, that is, the possibilities that readers have to express their reading experience. Part of the skill of a competent reader is to be capable of going further than ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it’, ‘it’s fun’ or ‘it’s boring’. My data showed that the most sophisticated arguments are almost exclusively obtained from young people who have an extensive and diverse reading baggage. To teach the competence for social conversation about fiction is without a doubt increasingly more relevant given the growing force of reading socialization on the web.
Finally, what effects does the application of a programme of independent reading have on reading habits? I will note two of them: the more independent and autonomous reading in school, the more there is an increase in personal reading and the more progress there is in the appraisal of the texts. This is because the simultaneous programming of independent and guided reading (cursive and analitique according to the French curriculum) permits the building of bridges between personal reading and reading in school, between the construction of reading habits and the development of a literary reader, the two sides of the same coin.Mireia Manresa
BAUDELOT, C.; CARTIER, M.; DETREZ, C. (1999). Et pourtant ils lisent... París: Éditions du Seuil.HALL, C.; COLES, M. (1999). Children's reading choices. London: Routledge.
KRASHEN, S. (1993). The power of reading. Insights from the research. Englewood (Colorado): Libraries Unlimited, Inc.
MANRESA, M. (2009): Els hàbits lectors dels adolescents. Efectes de les actuacions escolars en les pràctiques de lectura. Dirección de Teresa Colomer. UAB.
MANRESA, M. (2013): L'univers lector adolescent. Dels hàbits de lectura a la intervenció educativa. Barcelona: Associació de Mestres Rosa Sensat.