PARENTS’ RELATIONSHIPS WITH READING AND LINKS WITH SHARED READING PRACTICES
Alongside asking parents in this project to talk about the reading they did with their children, we also asked them to talk about their own relationship with reading. This allowed us to analyse the relationship between these two components of the data and understand the link between the parents’ own relationships with reading, and their shared reading practices with their children. One main reason for doing this was to investigate if having a seemingly poor personal relationship with reading, which might have included, for example, a dislike of being made to read aloud at school, could inhibit parents in reading aloud with their own children. The data from the Shared Reading Project clearly showed that this was not the case for the parents in this study. While about a third of the parents participating in this study reported that they did not enjoy reading for themselves, or had had what might be regarded as a ‘poor’ relationship with reading when they were a child, they all went on to develop strong shared reading relationships with their own children. The importance of this finding lies not only in the knowledge that parents who have, or have had poor relationships with reading themselves can, and do, go on to have enjoyable and productive shared reading relationships with their children, but in understanding the interplay between these relationships. This chapter therefore presents an insight into the ways in which parents’ own reading relationships connected with their shared reading practices with their children, and the implications of this for work with other families in supporting shared reading in the home.
Understanding parents’ own relationships with reading
As discussed in the previous section, several studies have explicitly explored the barriers to shared reading with young children (Harris et al., 2007; Lin et al., 2015); however, very little is known about the relationship between parents’ own reading and their reading relationships with their children. In order to understand this, interviews in the Shared Reading Project devoted considerable time to talking to parents about their own reading, both as a child and as an adult. For example, parents were asked to talk about any shared reading activity that their own parents had conducted when they were children, and whether or not they had enjoyed reading when they were children. As a result, we developed five overarching themes from the data which were:
- • Parent attitude to school/experiences of school
- • Parent reading as a child (including being read to)
- • Parents’ reading as an adult
- • Shared reading relationship with child
- • How parent and child read together.
Analysing the data within these themes allowed us to understand the parent’s own personal relationship with reading, as a child and as an adult, and situate this alongside the shared reading relationship that they had developed with their child. In order to do this, we had to firstly categorise the participants; we did this by developing the categories of participants who reported that they:
- • did read as a child/ young adult and does read to own child now
- • did not read as a child/ young adult and does read to own child now
- • did not read as a child/ young adult and does not read to own child now
- • did read as a child/ young adult and does not read to own child now.
These categories were informed by the work of Moss (2000) who developed three categories of readers in order to investigate the different ways in which boys and girls react to proficiency judgement within the context of the junior school reading curriculum. These categories were: ‘those readers who can and do read freely; those who can but don’t read freely; and those who can’t yet and don’t read freely’ (2000: 102). To return to the Shared Reading Project, it should be noted that the purpose of using this categorisation was not to make a quantified statement about the amount of families that fell into each category, but to help us to focus on the data that allowed us to understand if parents who either had a poor relationship with reading themselves as a child and/or as an adult, were able to develop positive reading relationships with their own children. Of course the individual profiles of participants within each category varied substantially; for example, some participants in the ‘did not read as a child/ young adult and does read to own child now’ group reported that they disliked reading at school and do not read as an adult, while others started to enjoy reading at a later stage in life. This again underlines the fact that while the categorisations alone did tell us something about the links between parents own relationship with reading and their shared reading relationships with their children, the depth of understanding came from analysing the data within the individual interviews.
□ Did read and DOES read to child
□ Did read and DOES NOT read to child
■ Did NOT read and DOES read to child
Figure 8.1 Link between parents’ reading as a child/young adult and their shared reading relationship with their own child.
Having analysed the data according to the themes presented, we found that 18 out of the 29 parents could be categorised as ‘did read as a child/ young adult and does read to own child now’. Ten of the parents were assigned the category ‘did not read as a child/young adult and does read to own child now’ while only one parent fell into the category ‘did read as a child/ young adult and does not read to own child now’. This parent (Roshanna - whose data was discussed in Chapter 7) spoke about wanting to read to her children, but felt unable to, due to factors such as health issues. No participant fitted the category ‘did not read as a child/young adult and DOES NOT read to own child now’. See Figure 8.1 for an illustration.
The data discussed in this chapter looks primarily at the parents in the category ‘did not read as a child/ young adult and does read to own child now’, as this allowed us to understand the factors that motivated parents who did not enjoy reading for themselves, to read with their children. This has important implications for the ways in which educationalists can target the support of other parents who do not appear to have a strong relationship with reading themselves, in encouraging them to enjoy reading with their own children.