The Experience of Place in Child Literacy Life-worlds: A Phenomenological Study of Readers as Place-makers

Open Access
Fischer, Sarah Beth
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
July 15, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Daniel Dean Hade, Dissertation Advisor
  • Jacqueline J A Reid Walsh, Committee Member
  • Mark Thomas Kissling, Committee Member
  • Christine Marme Thompson, Committee Member
  • literacy life-worlds
  • reader identity
  • children's special places
  • place-conscious education
  • literacy curricula
Current educational policy in the United States supports the standardization of school curricula and promotes a high-stakes testing culture that reinforces the ideologies of market fundamentalism. This accountability movement has resulted in school curriculum that aims to transcend children’s diverse lived experiences and the local contexts in which those experiences are made meaningful. In elementary schools in particular, these policies have also led to the decrease of aesthetic activities that nurture children’s social, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing, such as music education, art education, physical education, the social studies, unstructured playtime and pleasure reading. Place-based educators have pushed back against these trends by advocating for curricula that promotes permeability between the physical and conceptual boundaries of children’s school, home and community contexts and emphasizes project-based instructional design that meaningfully connects to children’s everyday lived experiences. While research in children’s literature and literacy education recognizes the important role that reading can play in rooting children in the world they are coming to know, place-based educators have not thoroughly explored the relationship between children’s identities as readers and their identities as place-makers. Designed as a phenomenological inquiry, this study explored five adults’ experiences of place within their childhood literacy life-world, or reading landscape. By studying adults, this project aimed to describe and interpret the role children’s literature and childhood reader identity might play in one’s development as a place-maker in middle childhood (approximately ages six to thirteen), as well as the meaning these experiences hold in adulthood. The findings have significant implications for place-based curricula, suggesting that children engage in dynamic transactions with out-of-school places as they enact their emerging identity as independent readers and that these experiences contribute to how they see the world and themselves into adulthood.