The interviews

Given the need to allow participants to talk freely about their own lives, and present their own personal stories, interviews had to be semi-structured. This ensured that salient questions were asked and particular topics were discussed; however, we were also keen to encourage these parents to elaborate on their own responses and, in particular, talk in detail about their own experiences, beliefs and hopes. We began all interviews with questions that invited parents to talk about their children and their family routines including any activities they engaged in regularly with their children. Although this research focused on a target child (most of whom were aged 3-4 years), parents were encouraged to talk about other siblings and the relationship between their children as well as other family members. If reading was mentioned during the course of the conversation, then we asked parents to elaborate on these activities. If reading was not mentioned, then we began to embed specific questions about reading activity into the interview. However, as mentioned above, given that we were also interested in exploring the ways in which parents’ own relationships with reading may have influenced their shared reading practices with their children, we also asked questions about their memories of reading as a child, any shared reading they may have engaged with when they were children, and their reading practices as an adult.

These interviews led to an unfolding of the ways in which reading, and shared reading in particular, was contextualised within the minutiae of everyday family life and routines. This approach allowed an insight into many experiences and beliefs including parents’ relationships with reading, their reading at school, their memories of reading with their own parents, their journey to becoming parents, their beliefs and practices regarding reading with their children and the various ways in which reading is cemented in the everyday context of family life. In other words, this approach generated ‘thick’ or ‘rich’ descriptions (Denzin, 1989; Plummer, 2001) that, when analysed, allowed an insight into the complexity of shared reading in families.

All interviews were conducted in participants’ homes and were arranged at a time chosen by the participant. It was not necessary for this study for the children to be present during the interview; however, in many cases the children were with their parents while they were being interviewed. Conducting research in participants’ own homes is clearly a privilege; however, this does raise a number of ethical issues, which will be discussed a little later in this chapter.

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