Coombs, Dawan Lynn
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This multiple-case qualitative study details seven-months of research conducted with five adolescent struggling readers, designed to examine their experiences in schools and the implications of these experiences on their learner identities. Specifically, the author examines the stories these readers tell about themselves, literacy, and learning; what these stories suggest about readers’ perceptions and perspectives of the classroom, their abilities, and themselves; and how stories told by and about readers transact with literacy learning as well as the implications of these stories for literacy classrooms. Chapter one begins by describing Bakhtin’s (1981) theories of dialogue and Herman’s (2001) notion of the dialogic self, which provide a theoretical framework for understanding struggling reader identity development. Chapter two includes a review of the literature on struggling readers, sociocultural perspectives of literacy, and struggling reader identity development. Next, chapter three examines the central role of philosophical hermeneutics in the methodology of this study, specifically the role Ricoeur’s (1984) three-fold mimesis plays in the research questions and design of this study, including considerations concerning the participants, methods, and analysis. Chapters four and five detail the stories of the student participants and the analysis of their stories. Chapter four focuses on the stories of Braydon and Sarah, two college students, both of whom clearly discuss the way their past experiences with reading inform the way they construct their identities today. In contrast, chapter five focuses on three high school students, Anna, Jack and Maurice, and the role reading and literacy play in their lives. These chapters wrap up with a discussion of potential understandings teachers, researchers, parents and policy makers might gain from these stories. Finally, chapter six concludes with a discussion of the implications and significance of this research. Examinations of these narratives indicate extensive dialogues between these adolescents and the preunderstandings they use to construct their narratives about themselves as readers. The significance of others—particularly teachers, family members, and peers, as well as schools and traditional classroom practices--becomes evident in the construction of students’ narrative identities.