Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English



First Advisor

Robert Shwegler


Through qualitative coding and analysis of 121 literacy narratives, this study examines first-year college students’ references to former reading sponsors, defined as the people, institutions, and entities that played a role in their reading development. The study was designed to locate the sponsors present in the narratives, to determine patterns that emerged in their experiences, and to examine factors that were formative to the participants’ reading identities.

The study reveals the highly social nature of reading development, providing evidence that the participants’ perceptions of themselves as readers are shaped by the individuals, institutions, and entities who sponsor them including parents, grandparents, teachers, tutors, school systems, authors, and books/genres. Participants’ earliest memories of reading development reveal the uneven nature of early reading sponsorship, particularly for ESL or slower readers. Participants also share accounts of a dramatic reduction in reading involvement during high-school which is linked through the participants’ narratives to lack of choice with regard to book selection, teacher-driven topics, excessive quizzing, and standardized testing.

The researcher discovered three meta-themes in the data providing evidence that many participants are engaged readers both in and out of school, but that a large percentage lose or gain interest in reading, report that they hate or hated reading, and desire more choice in reading and topic selection. The researcher suggests that there is a correlation between reading proficiency and reading engagement, calling for more studies and curriculum re-design.



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