Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Amy D. Broemmel

Committee Members

Anne McGill-Franzen, Hillary Fouts, Margaret Ferguson Quinn


Using a mixed methods comparative case study, this study explored emergent readers’ book selection behaviors and how both policy and teachers influence the emerging readers’ selection processes within their classrooms. Emergent literacy skills are the forefront of literacy development (Clay, 1982; Ferriero & Teborsky, 1982; Teale, 1986; McNaughton, 1995; Chall, 1996; Neuman, 2000), yet there seems to be little, if any, acknowledgement of the nature of literacy development within current educational policy. Research on reading motivation and engagement has largely focused on older students (Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997; Gambrell et al. 2011; Marinak, 2013), but little has been studied about emergent readers’ motivation and book choice using methods beyond surveys (Saracho, 1986; Sperling, et al., 2013). This study of two pre-kindergarten and two kindergarten classrooms, along with their classroom teachers, utilized observations, interviews, text analysis and policy analysis, to examine the novel construct of bioecological model of emergent reader motivation and choice (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 2005; Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006; Clay, 1982, 1991, 2001; Rosenblatt, 1978, 1995). The observational data were analyzed for vertical and horizontal case analysis, and triangulated with the interview, text and policy data, revealing that teachers were strong proponents of choice and opportunity for children to demonstrate agency in book selection, yet that support was not always observed in practice. The data also indicated that systemic pressure, based on both increasing standards and lack of developmentally appropriate standards, did influence children’s opportunity to access books in their classroom. The findings suggest that even v well-intentioned teachers of young children face hurdles when it comes to giving children the ability to choose and interact with a wide variety of texts.

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