Eradicating book deserts: teens' assessments and perceptions of book access in low-income environments
Previous research has found that access to reading materials within neighborhood settings tends to be disproportionate depending on the surrounding community's socioeconomic status. Analyses of neighborhoods delineated by local income indicate there are fewer locations where youth and their families can borrow or purchase affordable reading materials (i.e. fewer public libraries or booksellers). Most materials focus on young children with even fewer resources for teens. These book deserts negatively impact young adults who continue to develop their literacy. Using a critical consciousness framework, high school-aged co-investigators attending a youth-serving agency used Photovoice to assess their access reading materials and perceptions of the quality and quantity of those materials. Twenty-two high school students took pictures of things that encourage them to read in Wichita and answered a pre-Photovoice questionnaire, and ten were interviewed and responded to a post-Photovoice questionnaire. Results across methods indicated that most co-investigators felt there was adequate access to reading materials in town; seven could identify those particular places where they could find books, with libraries and schools mentioned the most often. These co-investigators primarily said they like to read because they can learn from books and enjoy the creativity books enhance. However, they do not read often, partly because of noted challenges to access in the community. Co-investigators said they perceive books as higher-quality when the materials are personalized to teens' experiences and relate to their lives; however, they do not get these types of books in schools, which they said is viewed as the greatest source of reading encouragement. From a group coding session, co-investigators created four distinct themes of pictures that symbolize factors that encourage them to read: college, signs, driving, and religion. Co-investigators provided suggestions for increasing reading among people their age, as they recognize factors that prohibit young adults from reading in Wichita and are presented in this study.
Thesis (Ph.D.)-- Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology