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Investigating the picture book preferences of grade four Aboriginal students Boyle, Erin Elizabeth O'Byrne

Abstract

The purpose of the study is to investigate the picture book preferences of grade four Aboriginal students, to discover what books have the greatest appeal and to determine which specific factors influence their choices. The study took place at an inner city elementary school with a high population of Aboriginal students located in the heart of the Canadian prairies. Experienced educators know that the majority of Aboriginal chidlren come to school with little or no exposure to books. Studies have shown that the ability or lack of ability to read at grade level is a strong indicator of future academic success. Teachers and librarians have little information available to assist them in choosing literature that will be of interest to Aboriginal students and motivate them to read and through practice improve their reading skills. Provincial governments are looking for research that addresses the needs of this growing population. Twelve grade four Aboriginal students participated in the study, seven boys and five girls. The students viewed forty-five books that were divided into three sets of fifteen and chose one book from each set to read and respond to through writing and/or drawing. After the book selection and response sessions were complete, the researcher interviewed each child to determine the one book they would most want to take home. The study concludes that: 1) Students preferred to read picture books portraying Aboriginal characters that reflected their own image; 2) Students transposed the urban and rural settings in the Aboriginal books to make relevant connections with their lives; 3) Aboriginal books portraying Aboriginal characters was the genre with the greatest appeal; 4) Students preferred vivid realistic illustrations; 5) Students background experience frequently determined their preferences in books and also increased their motivation to read; 5) Realistic pictures with minimal amounts of text held great appeal for boys selecting information books. It is hoped that the study will assist teachers and librarians in selecting literature that will be of interest to Aboriginal students encouraging them to read more and by improving their reading skills raise the level of their general academic achievement.

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