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Quantitative Studies

Storytelling as a Democratic Approach to Data Collection: Interviewing Children about Reading

Educational Research; v49 n2 p169-184 Jun 2007

by Pauline Davis

Keywords: elementary school, language attitudes, literacy, reading improvement


Background: Before the 1990s, an individual or medical model dominated educational research methodology with respect to younger children: the subjects of the research were usually considered untrustworthy sources of information. A subsequent shift towards an ecological model has focused on the child's perspective: however, Lewis and Lindsay have described the development of methods for conducting research with children as slow.

Purpose: This paper examines how storytelling can be used as a method of collecting authentic and revealing research data from children. The method is suggested as a valuable way in which to gain insights into children's discourse, and is used in this paper in relation to children's discourse about reading.

Sample, design and methods: The storytelling method was initially trialled in one school with 36 children aged between 5 and 11 years. The storytelling interview was then used in case studies over a period of a year in three schools, with a total of 88 7- and 8-year-old children. During the interviews, children were asked to tell a story entitled "The child who didn't like reading". Systematic content analysis was undertaken to identify emergent cultural norms and models in the stories. Information on the children's reading practices, and their observations on reading, was also collected for the purposes of triangulation.

Results: The children's storytelling gave access to their cultural models of reading. It was found that the stories demonstrated sufficient triangulation with the other data about the children's reading practices to support a sociocultural production of the children's discourse.

Conclusions: Storytelling can provide a useful and credible method of collecting research data from children. It may be especially useful with poor readers as there are no literacy demands, and in this respect, affords socially inclusive research. (Contains 1 table.)

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