jueves, 12 de enero de 2017

The practices of literary reading of adolescents and of the school: tensions and influences

Happy New Year to our readers!

We begin the year with an account of a study by Gabriela Rodella de Oliveira, an insightful piece of research on young people reading in Brazil, with conclusions that remind us of previous blog entries on young people reading in other countries such as Mexico, Turkey and Spain.

We’d like to remind you that you can send us your entry on your study, research or experience with literature and reading. The guidelines are simply to help you structure your entry but they can be flexible. We also remind our readers that we’d love to receive comments on the entries or the blog in general and to know if it is of interest and use for your own study or professional experiences.

We hope you will continue to accompany us in 2017.

Evelyn, Laura, Javiera and Camila

Gabriela Rodella de Oliveira has a Masters and PhD in Language and Education from the Universidad de São Paulo (USP), Brazil. Gabriela carries out research on the reading practices and representations of reading and literature of Brazilian teachers and students. She participates in research groups concerned with the relationship between reading, literature and learning, with a special focus on children’s and young adult literature, subjects on which she has published books and articles. She has led workshops dedicated to the training of readers and teachers, as well as workshops on reading and the production of texts aimed at the general public. She is also author of a collection of Portuguese textbooks for children and adolescents. Currently, Gabriela is professor of Reading and Production of Texts at the Humanities, Arts and Sciences Institute of the Universidad Federal del Sur de Bahía (UFSB), Brazil.


The aim of this doctorate research was to describe, analyze and interpret the reading practices of adolescents who attend school in Brazil. To do so, it was necessary to count on a sample of participants with different profiles. The initial hypothesis states that adolescents read, contrary to that suggested by common sense discourse of parents and teachers which maintains that young adults are not interested in reading.

Context and Methodology

In order to carry out this study, I worked with first year morning school secondary students during the second semester of 2011. Four São Paulo institutions were selected: two private schools and two public schools, three of them located in the capital and the other belonging to the metropolitan area of São Paulo. Two methods of data collection were employed: one survey with open and closed questions, which was answered by 289 students, and interviews with 63 students, which added up to approximately five hours of recording.


The analysis of the data revealed the following:
1)    The existence of a strong attraction to mass culture in the actual reading practices of adolescents from all social classes, who make a decision on their own to read the bestsellers.
2)    Tension between students and readings selected by the school. This tension originates from the obligation to read; from the difficulties arising from the linguistic demands and reading comprehension; and from deadlines and the evaluation of these readings.
3)    The dismissal or lack of interest, on part of the school agents, of the readings that the students engage in outside of the school environment.
4)    The students need an adequate reading mediation for the selection of books required by the school.
5)    The socioeconomic situation and the origin of the families of the students have an influence, in terms of the space and time available, on the reading practices considered legitimate within the literary field.

As an example, below are different extracts have been selected from interviews in which the students talk about: a) required school readings; b) what they like in the books they choose to read; and, c) the results of a well carried-out reading mediation.

Do you like to read?
Afonso – Only the books that I like, but I don’t like it when the teacher orders us to read.
Dayane – They are, boring books, like that Dom Casmurro [Machado de Assis].
Cassiana – Because they are boring books!
Afonso - O cortiço (The Tenement)[Azevedo]
Cassiana – Wow…just Jesus!

Why is the book boring?
Cassiana – Because it is exhausting. There is a story and you are asking yourself what is going to happen, what is going to happen and it gets very complicated. It…depends on the book, there are books that say it all, you become hooked, read and don’t feel tired.

What are the types of stories that interest you?
Gabriel – I think more of our time, or something like that…
Adriana – Books that have more to do with people.
Gabriel – More related to our age.
Danillo – I like most those of adventure, like action books. It’s cool that, for example, in each chapter you learn something different, you aren’t left knowing everything at once, that they don’t even tell.
Gabriel – It’s, the same as a novel…
Adriana – The same as a novel!
Danillo – For example, one chapter leaves a mystery, in another it is resolved, or begins to leave it…
Adriana – A novel you even know, you are reading it and there you are in the great final scene, then I say: it’s going to end! It’s said and done: it ends! Only tomorrow…

Beatriz –  The book, for example, is a metaphor, the entire book, do you get it? The other books generally had a plot at least, you know?
Lina – It was more of a novel…
Beatriz – It is more literal…that entire book is a metaphor in itself.
Lina – It’s more different, it isn’t normal, no one writes a book like that. You are not going to take…The books that people had read until now weren’t like that. They were more like a story…
Beatriz – They had a plot. Like in that story…for example, Nação crioula: it is a woman who was a slave…it was all a story, it didn’t have a metaphor.
Lina – You didn’t have to understand something behind the book.
Beatriz – He wants to do that thing about the alienation of society. That’s what is cool about Saramago…
Lina – And then, for example, you finish reading and think…you don’t have to think about what you read, you have to think about what lies behind it.


This study confirmed its expectations: Brazilian adolescents read. They may not read the books proposed by school and they may not read as often as would be desired, but in general, they do read. The students cite their favourite books, have discussions about what they liked in the works; about the readings they do and the books they select. Nevertheless, the ways in which school interferes with the creation of literary readers can also be observed, making it possible to glimpse paths toward the teaching of literary reading to today’s adolescents.

In their discussions, the students report difficulties in handling the Brazilian school literary canon, in understanding “ancient languages” and texts “with a lot of descriptions”, texts that probably answered to expectations of readers from the beginning of the nineteenth century. The students receive those books as mere documents of the era, perhaps useful in understanding the “historical context,” but they do not constitute a literary reading experience. Thus, a revision of the school literary canon is necessary to answer the – very relevant – question posed by one of our research participants: why study these works?

In addition, if we keep in mind that “all reading is comparative reading [and that] it is rare that we read what is unknown” (GOULEMOT, 2001, p. 112-113), it seems important to establish the bases so that these comparisons can be made effectively. Thus, constructing a reading repertoire, considering students as “active receptors” – keeping in mind what they would like to read (ROCCO, 1981)- and working with a “concept of teaching literature deprived of prejudices, far from the tradition of the school and open to the cultural reality of our time” (VIEIRA, 1988, p. 2), seems to be an alternative for young adults to reflect on what they read and to be able to draw parallels with the new readings we want them to do.

Thus, we believe it is possible, through a mediation that includes a revision of the selection of texts worked on in class and of consideration of the works that adolescents opt to read on their own account, to get students from the different schools and social levels to develop the qualities necessary to become literary readers.

Full text: http://www.teses.usp.br/teses/disponiveis/48/48134/tde-31012014-121057/pt-br.php

References included in the text

The analysis of data related to what these young people chose to read in their own time and what keeps them away from reading literary school classics was carried out in light of the concepts of social psychology (S. Moscovici); the history of book and reading culture (R. Chartier); reading sociology (P. Bourdieu, B. Lahire, C. Baudelot, M. Cartier e C. Detrez); literary criticism (H. R. Jauss, W. Iser, U. Eco, S. Fish, J. P. Paes, M. Sodré e S. Reimão) and research on the teaching of literature and literary readings (J. M. Goulemot, A. Rouxel, V. Jouve, M. Butlen, M. T. F. Rocco, A. Vieira, C. Leahy-Dios, W. R. Cereja, M. Z. Versiani Machado, M. P. Pinheiro, N. L. Rezende, among others).


  • Ahr, Sylviane; Butlen, Max. Savoir lire/aimer lire: un couple en évolution ou en voie de séparation? Éla: études de linguistique appliquée. Revue de didactologie des langues-cultures et de lexiculturologie, Paris, n. 166, avril-juin 2012.
  • Baudelot, Christian; Cartier, Marie. Lire au collège et au lycée. Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales, Paris, n. 123, juin. 1998.
  • Baudelot, Christian; Cartier, Marie; Detrez, Christine. Et pourtant ils lisent… Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1999.
  • Bourdieu, Pierre. (Coord.). A miséria do mundo. Petrópolis: Vozes, 2003.
  • ______. A distinção. Porto Alegre/São Paulo: Zouk/Edusp, 2006.
  • Bourdieu, Pierre; Chartier, Roger. O sociólogo e o historiador. Tradução Guilherme João de Feritas Teixeira. Belo Horizonte: Autêntica, 2011.
  • Chartier, Anne-Marie. Quels lecteurs voulons-nous former avec la littérature de jeunesse? In: Mercier-Faivre, Anne-Marie (Org.). Enseigner la littérature: de jeunesse? Lyon: Presses Universitaires, 1999.
  • Chartier, Roger. A história cultural. Entre práticas e representações. Lisboa: Difusão Editorial, 1988.
  • ______. O mundo como representação. Trad. Andrea Daher e Zenir Campos Reis. Estudos Avançados, São Paulo, v. 5, n. 11, jan./abr. 1991. Texto publicado com permissão da revista Annales, n. 6, p. 1.505-1.520, nov.-dez. 1989.
  • Eco, Umberto. Lector in fabula. São Paulo: Perspectiva, 1979.
  • ______. Sobre a literatura. Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2003.
  • Fish, Stanley. Interpreting the variorum. In: ______. Is there a text in this class? Massachusetts: Harvard, 1980.
  • Goulemot, Jean Marie. Da leitura como produção de sentidos. In: Chartier, Roger. (Dir.). Práticas de leitura. São Paulo: Estação Liberdade, 2001.
  • Iser, Wolfgang. O ato da leitura. São Paulo: Editora 34, 1996.
  • Jauss, Hans Robert. O prazer estético e as experiências fundamentais da Poiesis, Aisthesis e Katharsis. In: Jauss, Hans Robert et al.; Lima, L. C. (Coord.) A literatura e o leitor: textos de estética da recepção. 2. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 2002.
  • Lahire, Bernard. Retratos sociológicos: disposições e variações individuais. Tradução Patrícia Chittoni Ramos Reuillard e Didier Martin. Porto Alegre: Artmed, 2004a.
  • ______. Sucesso escolar nos meios populares. As razões do improvável. São Paulo: Ática, 2004b.
  • Machado, Maria Zélia Versiani. A literatura e suas apropriações por leitores jovens. Tese (Doutorado) – Faculdade de Educação, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, 2003.
  • Moscovici, Serge. Representações sociais: investigações em psicologia social. Tradução Pedrinho A. Guareschi. Petrópolis: Vozes, 2012.
  • Paes, José Paulo. A aventura literária. Ensaios sobre ficção e ficções. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2001.
  • Rezende, Neide Luzia. O ideal de formação pela literatura em conflito com as práticas de leitura contemporâneas. In: Santini, J. (Org.). Literatura, crítica, leitura. Uberlândia: EDUFU, 2011.
  • Rocco, Maria Thereza Fraga. Literatura/ensino: uma problemática. São Paulo: Ática, 1981.
  • Rouxel, Annie; Langlade, Gérard; Rezende, Neide Luzia. (Org.). Leitura subjetiva e ensino de literatura. São Paulo: Alameda, 2013.
  • Vieira, Alice. Análise de uma realidade escolar: o ensino de literatura no 2º grau, hoje. 1988. Tese (Doutorado em Educação) – Faculdade de Educação, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, 1988.

sábado, 5 de noviembre de 2016

A panorama of the changes in Chilean children’s literature through an analysis of award-winning books

Greetings to all our readers! With this entry we inaugurate the new phase of the blog, with posts about Masters and Doctoral studies in the field. We begin with an investigation into children's and young adult literature in Chile. A big thank you to Javiera and we look forward to your contributions for the following entries. The indications for being published can be found on the left hand side of the screen.

Evelyn Arizpe

Javiera Garcia has a Bachelor’s in Spanish Language and Literature from the Universidad Alberto Hurtado and a Master’s in Children’s Literature and Literacies from the University of Glasgow. Her main interests are picturebooks, graphic narrative and cognitives approaches to children’s literature.

Research question

The aim of my master’s dissertation was to provide an overview of the changes in and the characteristics of Chilean children’s literature from 1990 to 2015. In order to establish this, I have attempted to address the question: What are the characteristics of Chilean children’s literature from the last 25 years? The answer to this question was provided by the analysis of award-winning Chilean books from 1990 to 2015.


The number of books for children published in Chile has dramatically increased in the last 25 years; nevertheless, the study of this area has been neglected. The main study of children’s literature – from an historic perspective – was published in 1982 by Manuel Peña[1], which covers the history of books for young readers from the Colony to the 1980s. From 1990 to this moment, however, no studies exist concerning how Chilean children’s literature has evolved and what features the books show nowadays.

Table 1 Number of children's books published by year in Chile. Source: ISBN

Design and methodology

The selection of books was made taking into consideration all the books awarded by diverse national and international prizes from 1990 to 2015. This method of corpus selection is a beneficial way of narrowing down the number of texts that can be included in the research, and also recognises the quality of the material selected (Yokota, 2011).

Six awards were taken into consideration for this investigation: IBBY Chile Honour List, Colibrí Medal, Municipal Prize of Literature of Santiago, Marta Brunet Award, White Ravens and Barco de Vapor Chile.

In the last 25 years, there were 58 books awarded, most of them recognised after 2005. Twenty-nine of them are chapter books, eight are picturebooks, six are poetry, six are short stories, four are graphic novels or comics, three are nonfiction, one is drama and one is unknown[2]. However, and because of time and space limits, in this research I only analysed chapter books.

The chapter books were analysed according to a guideline from Colomer (1998) that I modified in order to include topics, characteristics and content elements, and left aside elements from narratology that I could not tackle due to the parameters of the investigation.


This research took into account 17 categories of analysis applied to the texts; however, I will refer to only a few categories of analysis that were applied in this research.

Firstly, the representation of boys and girls as main characters has been far from equal; the depiction has been mostly in favour of male protagonists. Of the 29 books analysed, 21 of them have male main characters, while only eight books present female protagonists.

The female main characters were created mostly by female authors, all except one, and almost the totality of the books were published after 2005, with the exception of one book awarded in 1992. This confirms that the appearance of female protagonist is relatively new in the panorama provided by the prizes.

In addition, this disparity is not only exposed in the gender of the protagonists of books; it is also present in the gender of the authors. Books written by men won almost twice as many recognitions than the ones written by women: while 19 of the award-winning books were authored by men, women wrote 10 of the award-winning titles. Therefore, as men tend to write books with male main characters, and also tend to win more awards, girls are underrepresented in Chilean children’s literature – particularly in the period from 1990 to 2005.

The depiction of the family and its conflicts were also taken into consideration in this research. Following Colomer’s (1998) guidelines, I selected four possible depictions of the family: traditional, non-traditional, communal and indeterminate.

The type of family most frequently represented is the traditional one, appearing in 15 books. After this, non-traditional families – when only one adult is in charge of the child, being one of the parents or other relative – are portrayed in nine books. Communal families are not usually portrayed and appear only in three books, and there are only two stories with an indeterminate family structure.

These results show the rather conservative vision of the family portrayed in Chilean children’s literature, as 75% of the books display a traditional perspective of it, even when this structure is broken later due to the death of one of the protagonist’s parents. Because of this, readers are not exposed to different types of families, like single, adopted or same-sex parents. The concept of family in the award-winning books from the last 25 years is very traditional and specific.

Regarding new features that the books may show, I looked for transgressions of literary norms, that is, the appearance of postmodern features - such as multiple narratives, metafiction, parody, among others (Thacker and Webb, 2002) – in the stories. From the 58 chapter books considered in this research, only three included some kind of literary experiment, all of them published after 2009. This shows that the inclusion of literary transgressions in books for children is not very common in current award-winning Chilean literature.

The last topic I wish to approach is the closure of the narratives; I have divided the endings into four categories: happy, positive, open or negative ending. Happy endings were the most used by the authors, 18 books have a resolved ending, without loose ends. Positive endings, where the protagonist may or may not resolve the conflict but assumes the problem, were used in seven books. Open endings were used in only two chapter books, both awarded in 2014, and negative endings are present in also two of the books.

Contrary to the current international trends, in which “happy endings are less in vogue than they once were” (Meek, 1996, p. 7), in Chilean children’s literature this type of ending remains predominant. This points to the fact that the narrative tendencies are more conservative, since there is not much experimentation with the content nor the form of the narratives.


The growing number of children’s books published in Chile has allowed the rise of non-traditional books in the national scene. One example of this rise is the creation of new awards and the recognition of narratives in different formats, such as comics, graphic novels, illustrated poetry and picturebooks since 2005. Chapter books, nonetheless, were the most awarded books over the last 25 years, and that is the main reason why they were the selected genre for this study.

Several topics were discussed during the analysis, which provided information about the characteristics of contemporary Chilean children's literature. One of the main findings is that the themes presented in these books are rather conservative in nature; the representation of the family structure is strongly linked to the traditional vision of a family. In addition, there is an omission of provocative and transgressive themes in the majority of the chapter books, as well as a lack of open endings, which reveals an overprotective stance towards the reader.

Certainly, these findings are about the award-winning books from the last 25 years and they do not represent the truth about all the children’s books published in Chile in that period of time. The results, however, raise several questions regarding the relationship between children and adults’ choices, and how adults define the contents, experiences and world visions that are suitable for young readers.

For example, from the information provided by a survey from Fundación La Fuente (2013) it was established that most of the genres of the award-winning books do not match the children’s preferences regarding what they like to read. This gap between what adults and children like casts doubts on the books selected and their relation to each of the readers.

Finally, this investigation exposes several areas of Chilean children’s literature that need to be researched thoughtfully. There is not just a lack of historical studies that can provide us with information about the image of the child and of childhood presented by Chilean writers at different points of time, we also need to approach gender issues and representations, the family genre and its changes according to modern life, postmodern features and new formats, and many more topics that have yet to be fully explored.


Colomer, T. (1998). La formación del lector literario. Narrativa infantil y juvenil actual. Madrid: Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez.

Fundación La Fuente (2013). Esto no es un cuento. [Online] Available from: http://www.fundacionlafuente.cl/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Estudio-Esto-no-es-un-cuento.pdf 

Meek, M. (1996). “Introduction”. In Hunt, P. (ed.). International Companion Encyclopaedia of Children's Literature. London: Routledge.

Peña, M. (1982). Historia de la literatura infantil chilena. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Andrés Bello. Available from: http://www.memoriachilena.cl/archivos2/pdfs/mc0011016.pdf

Thacker, D. & Webb, J. (2002). ‘Playful subversion’. Introducing Children’s Literature. From Romanticism to Postmodernism. London: Routledge.

Yokota, J. (2011). ‘Awards in Literature for Children and Adolescents’. In: Wolf, S. (ed.). Handbook of Research on Children's and Young Adult Literature. New York: Routledge.

[1] Historia de la literatura infantil chilena
[2] The unknown book was never published.