Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

First Graders' Preferences for Narrative And/or Information Books and Perceptions of Other Boys' and Girls' Book Preferences

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

First Graders' Preferences for Narrative And/or Information Books and Perceptions of Other Boys' and Girls' Book Preferences

Article excerpt

In this article, we report on grade-one children's preferences for narrative and/or information books, and their perceptions of what boys and girls like to read. Data include responses on two book preference tasks by 40 children in four schools. Children chose books and explained the reasons for their choices. One task was a dosed, force-choice task, the other, an open-ended task. Boys and girls had similar interests, either preferring stories or liking information books and stories to the same degree. Yet boys and girls perceived that boys prefer information texts and girls prefer narratives. The children's perceptions reflect gendered stereotypes.

Key words: literacy, reading, motivation, genre, gender

Dans cet article, les auteurs signalent que les eleves de 1re annee preferent les livres qui racontent des histoires ou donnent de l'information et presentent ce que, selon de ces eleves, les garcons et les filles aiment lire. Les donnees comprennent les reponses de 40 enfants dans quatre ecoles a deux questionnaires, l'un a reponses libres et l'autre a choix multiples, sur les preferences en matiere de livres. Les enfants ont choisi des livres et donne les raisons de leur choix. Les garcons et les filles avaient des interets similaires, preferant soit les histoires, soit les livres d'information et les histoires au meme degre. Et pourtant, les garcons comme les filles avaient l'impression que les garcons aimaient mieux les livres d'information et les filles, les histoires. Les perceptions des enfants refletent les stereotypes marques par le sexe.

Mots cles : litteratie, lecture, motivation, genre


In the current political climate, there is much concern about literacy achievement, especially for boys. A frequently offered recommendation to foster boys' success in literacy has been to provide more opportunities to read nonfiction, especially in the critical early years. The argument has been that, although reading informational text is beneficial for all children, it is especially critical to boys' motivation to read.

Narrative genres have been dominant in primary classrooms because they were considered most appropriate for young children. More recently, researchers such as Pappas (1993) and Doiron (1994) have challenged the primacy of narrative in the early years, arguing that children's difficulties reading informational genres are due to limited experience with them rather than innate developmental differences. Some scholars suggest that the dominance of narrative texts may be contributing to an "expository gap" at about grade four (Gee, 2001) and the persistent "fourth grade slump" in overall literacy achievement (Chall, Jacobs & Baldwin, 1990). Hall (1998) argues that a consistent diet of personal and fictional stories rather the genres they will use in later schooling and in their adult lives "divorces school literacy from real-life literacy" (p. 10).

Some scholars (Levine & Geldman-Caspar, 1996; Worthy, Moorman & Turner, 1999) have considered informational reading to be important to motivate and engage readers, especially for boys. Millard (1997) suggests the focus on narrative in schools may promote "particular versions of literacy that have more appeal for girls than boys" (p. 22). Other researchers (McKenna, Kear, & Ellsworth, 1995; Shapiro & White, 1991) indicate that children's attitudes toward reading and writing become more negative as they progress through the elementary school grades, with boys declining even more than girls. Interest leads to increased engagement, which is important for its own sake but also because it improves achievement (Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000). From this research on reading achievement, educators have concluded that providing a variety of genres in children's reading in the primary grades has important consequences both cognitively and affectively.

Asselin (2003) reiterates a common assumption: "What typically comes to mind when considering boys and reading? …

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