Date of Award

Spring 2005

Project Type


Program or Major

Literacy and Schooling

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Ruth Wharton-McDonald


The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences and perspectives of reading and writing among third grade students attending urban public schools. The study took place in a large urban district in the Northeastern United States and included two elementary schools, four classrooms, and 24 students. The study was designed and conducted as qualitative research. 24 students were interviewed at two different times in the school year using (1) a picture protocol for the first interview and (2) a semi-structured interview protocol for the second interview. Analysis of the 48 interviews yielded findings in three areas: (1) The role of choice in motivating and engaging readers and writers; (2) The importance of a working relationship between a teacher and student in the classroom; and (3) The distribution of reading levels in urban classrooms compared to those in middle-to-upper class public classrooms. The results confirmed the centrality of the student-teacher relationship. These findings have implications for effective teaching practices that include the ways in which the teacher organizes and arranges for instruction to meet the broad needs of students.