Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Anne McGill-Franzen

Committee Members

Thomas Turner, Gary Skolits, Mike Keene



This qualitative interview study was designed to understand how early literacy experiences continue to influence individuals as they become adult readers. The study utilized a case study methodology that allowed detailed descriptions of participants’ recollections of early literacy experiences and descriptions of the participants’ current reading habits.

The researcher, working from a constructivist paradigm, worked to find evidence to explore what features of early reading experiences might compel an individual to turn to reading again and again, or to choose to abstain from reading. The following research questions guided this study: “What specific memories do adult readers recall about early reading experiences?” “What is the nature of the influence of early reading experiences on lifelong reading habits as reported by adults?” and “What is the nature of the influence of lifelong reading habits on social and professional life as reported by adults?

Seven participants shared their earliest memories of literacy experiences, as rooted in family and school contexts, along with explanations of the uses of reading in their adult lives. The researcher employed a typological analysis to determine how participants’ memories of early literacy experiences impacted their adult reading habits.

The many facets of early reading experiences that influenced the participants’ reading habits could be categorized as positive, neutral, or negative. Most individuals experienced a combination of positive and negative literacy experiences, and the nature of these experiences influenced the participants’ adult reading habits in particular ways. The results of the analysis supported prior research in the field about the influence of teachers and the importance of early literacy instruction, and highlighted in particular, the emotional impact of successes or perceived failure in learning to read.

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