Emergent readers' joint text construction: A descriptive study of reading in social context

Mary Lee Prescott Griffin, University of Rhode Island


This study examined emergent readers' paired reading interactions. The teacher/researcher in this first grade classroom, began the study asking how emergent readers influence one another when reading together. Additional research questions concerned the effect of classroom context on readers' behaviors and the different definitions of reading held by participants. In exploring paired reading events, this examination focused on children's oral language use, nonverbal behaviors, joint text construction, and organizational strategies. Data sources included observations, field notes, video and audiotapes, student interviews, and independent data reviewers.

Findings suggest that organizational structures such as turn taking often determined the presence or absence of collaboration. Many nonverbal gestures such as pointing served multiple interactional functions for readers. Readers used language to organize and structure activity settings that they controlled. Through language play, first graders created supportive, interpersonal relationships, enhancing reader involvement and task persistence while developing mutual situational definitions of the task of reading.

Triangulated comparisons reveal differences in reading task definitions between teacher and child, and student and student. The teacher viewed the paired reading relationship as one of “reader construction,” the listening partner providing gradual hints while allowing the reader to retain ownership of the task. In contrast, students defined reading as a smooth, fluent, meaning-making process. As such, children tended to use expedient strategies such as “telling the word” in order to move reading along with responsibility or ownership of the task shifting continually. While teacher goals for reading focused on building and strengthening individual readers' skills, for students, the goal of reading in social context was success for the partnership.

Successful and less successful collaborators defined the task of reading differently. Successful collaborators took turns alternating page reading, providing assistance to one another, and using talk and language play to create motivational homogeneity (Tharp & Gallimore, 1988) focused on the task of reading. Less successful collaborators took turns reading whole books to one another, provided little or no assistance, reverted to less mature definitions of reading, and failed to establish mutual situational definitions of task.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Mary Lee Prescott Griffin, "Emergent readers' joint text construction: A descriptive study of reading in social context" (2000). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9988220.