An investigation of middle primary children’s wellbeing using the Reading WELL home reading program

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O'Brien, Siobhan (2022) An investigation of middle primary children’s wellbeing using the Reading WELL home reading program. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


This project investigates the effectiveness of The Reading WELL (Wellbeing Everyday through Learning and Literature) home reading program. The study is set within the homes and families of two communities in metropolitan Melbourne, Australia, and involved 142 parents and children in Year 3–4 classrooms. The project endeavoured to capture the interactions and aesthetic engagement that occurred between parent and child during the shared reading of narrative texts. With the aim of introducing knowledge around 3 wellbeing topics of body image, resilience and self-esteem, the focus of the research engaged developmental bibliotherapy using open- ended discussion prompts that specifically addressed the 3 topics to support the development of children’s wellbeing. Developmental bibliotherapy includes the use of books to “heal the mind” (Catalano, 2008; Halstead, 2009). Through reading, a reader makes connections to text and relates to characters in a non-threatening way. Via four stages: identification, catharsis, insight and universalisation, children are encouraged to draw on relevant experiences from their own lives. The four resources model (Luke and Freebody, 1997) underpinned the theoretical framework and The ORIM Framework (Nutbrown, Hannon & Morgan, 2005) opportunities, recognition, interaction and modelling (ORIM) acted as a taxonomy that captured the shared reading engagement (Department of Education, 2018; Ludwig, 2003). The Reading WELL book collection consisted of 37 book titles. A Reading WELL kit was located in a class for a school term and the children self-selected one book each week to take home to read. Each participating child received a Reading WELL journal. After reading, the journal was completed by the parent and child. As the main form of data collection, the contents of the journal included the study information, tips on shared reading, the titles of each book and 10 journal entries that included space to record the discussion that occurred after reading, acting as a reflection record for each book. The Reading WELL program was also mapped to the Victorian curriculum English, Personal and social capabilities, and Health and physical education curriculum areas. Attained through semi-structured interviews with parents and teachers and the Reading WELL journals, the project outcomes consider whether the reading engagement of a child increases based on the transactional/aesthetic response (Rosenblatt, 1994, 1995) focused on the text responses that illuminate reading connections from life to text and text to life (Davis, 1992; Mantei & Fahy, 2018; Nikolajeva, 2014). The outcomes consider the feasibility of the program and whether the Reading WELL is a sustainable and accessible way for parents and children to engage with reading as a regular form of home literacy. The outcomes also show how children’s reading engagement has impact on wellbeing and the 3 topic areas: body image, resilience and self-esteem. This is presented as a series of re-storied narratives using Barkhuizen’s (2008) story, Story, and STORY model. The re-storied narratives illustrate how cultural literacy, funds of knowledge and parent–child relationships influence children’s development and wellbeing. The re- storied narratives utilise arts-based (re)presentation research, with 10 re-storied titles that provide interpretations of the participants lived experiences. It is envisioned that these Reading WELL narratives will become a published version of the Reading WELL that supports children’s wellbeing development through the integrated use of developmental bibliotherapy and research-based insight into the body image, resilience and self-esteem topic areas.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3904 Specialist studies in education
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4705 Literary studies
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 5201 Applied and developmental psychology
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords home reading program, Wellbeing in Everyday Language and Literature, Melbourne, Australia, parents, children, wellbeing, body image, resilience, self-esteem, developmental bibliotherapy, reading, books, children's literature
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