Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Thomas N. Turner

Committee Members

Colleen Gilrane, Dorothy Hendricks, Allen Wier, and Deborah Wooten


This qualitative study examines how elementary readers transact with history and historical fiction while reading the American Girl series. A review of literature revealed a lack of educational research about the AG series and a need for research concerning how elementary students transact with historical fiction. The researcher attempted to answer the following questions:

  1. How do fourth grade students transact with history while reading the AG series of historical fiction?
  2. How do fourth grade students transact with the AG series of historical fiction?

The researcher interviewed, observed, and participated in a book club with seven public school females. Data were collected over the course of four weeks and was analyzed using the inductive data analysis (Hatch, 2002). Fourteen theoretical codes were identified. They are:

- readers discuss social history

- readers discuss controversial issues

- readers show evidence of engaging in historical thinking

- reading books challenges student’s ideas about history

- readers ask questions and make connections with history

- readers share misconceptions about history

- readers show interest in the human impact of historical events

- readers show evidence of being motivated to engage in historical inquiry

- readers use the textual and pictorial elements to their benefit

- readers share personal history

- readers motivated to read more books in the AG series

- readers initially believe the books to be non-fiction

- book club format influences type of talk during book club sessions, and

- readers wanting to engage in on-topic talk face resistance in small group book clubs. Conclusions from emergent data reveal that the AG series of historical fiction helps readers think about history, discuss history, and ask questions about history. Data suggests that historical fiction is a valid addition to the social studies classroom as it enhances learners’ understandings of history.

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