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).


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