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Reading together: an ethnographic study of a reading group for visually-impaired people

Hyder, E. (2010) Reading together: an ethnographic study of a reading group for visually-impaired people. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Because reading groups historically have been under-researched (Long, 2003), the literature in this field is limited, presenting this as an interesting area for researchers. A need for further research is also explained by the fact that the traditional model of a reading group has been expanded through recent library policies leading to the development of specific group types such as groups for visually-impaired people (VIPs). To date, there have been no long-term empirical studies of these groups. This thesis, therefore, makes a significant contribution to the literature in this field by providing an in-depth exploration of a VIP reading group. The thesis is an ethnographic study which follows a library-run reading group for visually-impaired people from its formation in September 2007 and concentrates on five of the group members. The methodology for the study is influenced by participatory approaches to research involving disabled people by inviting the participants to participate in the co-creation of knowledge about themselves (French & Swain, 2000, p. 1). It is also influenced by new ethnography’s preference for multi-layered texts by exploring both the individual and collective experiences of the participants. While the participants are defined throughout as readers, visual-impairment plays a role in their experiences. I show that visually-impaired readers and reading groups sit within a complex web of factors which impact on their experiences both as individual readers and as a group. The study also shows that VIP reading groups challenge traditional definitions of reading as a visual activity. The study explores issues of power and concludes that, because ownership of the group lies with the library, this challenges the idea of reading groups empowering their members. Furthermore, offering discrete groups for visually-impaired readers means that the role these groups play in contributing to agendas for social inclusion is problematic. The study concludes by making suggestions as to how these groups might develop to be more inclusive and empowering.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Goodwyn, A. and Tissot, C.
Thesis/Report Department:Institute of Education
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Central Services > Academic and Governance Services > Centre for Quality Support and Development (CQSD)
ID Code:40074
Uncontrolled Keywords:reading, reading group, visual-impairment, disability, libraries, social inclusion
Date on Title Page:September 2010

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