My dissertation research focused on children’s experiences with public library summer reading programs.
Although public library summer reading programs (SRPs) are popular with children and their parents, little research exists to understand how participants experience SRPs. The primary research question, therefore, was: How do children, parents, and library staff experience their public library summer reading programs? Data collection for this qualitative case study included interviews with participants, observation of library reading programs, and artifacts, such as children’s reading logs. The research was conducted in three public libraries in Alberta, with each library program representing an individual case. All three libraries participated in a nation-wide summer reading program.
The key informants were eight children, their parents, and the relevant staff members in each library. The children were interviewed weekly and their parents were asked to complete a short written questionnaire. Library staff members were interviewed before and after the program. Interviews were also conducted with staff members from the regional library to which the libraries all belonged. Data were analyzed to identify themes and patterns within each case and then across cases.
Findings from this study revealed that children seem to view reading as a solitary, individual pursuit, a notion that was not challenged by the summer reading programs they experienced and they rarely mentioned books or reading in relation to the programs. Ideally, summer reading programs aim to help children develop into lifelong readers, however, the library staffs seemed to lack the time, experience, and training to plan and implement programs to do so for these children. Additionally, this study revealed the challenges of planning SRPs in small- to medium-sized public libraries. Diverse populations, a variety of community expectations, and a lack of financial and human resources, as well as other logistical challenges such as fluctuating attendance, costs, and time, all affect the types of programs that public libraries can offer.
This study has implications for the organizers of the national SRP, teacher-librarians, teachers, and public libraries with regard to selection of appropriate materials, organization of programs, and interactions with children. Recommendations include the creation of greater opportunities for children to interact with and talk to one another and with adults about books and reading, program flexibility, and child-centred activities.
Other Research Interests
In addition to my dissertation research, I have also undertaken a number of other research projects, often with my colleague Dr. Jennifer Branch. These projects have focused on teacher-librarianship education, Web 2.0 in schools and libraries, and public library support for children’s school-based assignments.
My research interests lie in the areas of teacher-librarianship, teacher-librarian education, technology in schools and libraries, children’s services in public libraries, literacy and children’s literature.