Date of Award

Spring 2016

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Ruth M Wharton-McDonald

Second Advisor

Thomas R Newkirk

Third Advisor

Winston Thompson


This phenomenological study identifies three distinct literacy orientations among ten eighth and ninth grade students who attend a small, rural school in Northern New England: Game Players, Critical Consumers, and Aspirational Creators. In order to understand ongoing challenges for rural students in post-secondary life, students’ literacy practices, values and beliefs are examined within the context of students’ lived experiences and analyzed through the lens of literacy sponsorship. Their literacy practices, which are superficially uniform, are shown to have varying significance depending upon their literacy orientations. These underlying philosophies represent the purpose students perceive their literacy practices serve: to further their academic careers, to enhance and enrich their personal lives, and to contribute to the world. Literacy educators are encouraged to promote writing, privilege student choice, and foster college-ready thinking when implementing literacy instruction.