Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

William McGinley


In this dissertation, I examined what middle school students participating in a schoolbased book club ultimately took away from this reading experience emotionally and imaginatively, particularly the extent to which book club discussions provided a space for possible opportunities to learn about the social/cultural lives and worldviews of others. The students I worked with were sixth graders in a middle school with a population split between Latino/a and White students, many of whom were children of immigrants or were recent immigrants themselves. Focusing on interactions around stories of immigration, I drew upon social/cultural theory, critical discursive perspectives, and the emotion and literary imagination aspects of reading to explore the relationship between the reading and telling of stories and the students' social, cultural, and political understanding. Drawing from critical discourse analysis strategies, I analyzed how the emotional and imaginative engagement created by reading stories of immigration, and then discussing those stories with a socially and culturally diverse group of peers, influenced student talk and positioning within a book club. I argue that literary imagination was central to a reader’s ability to emotionally and intellectually connect to the fictional lives of characters, to ethically critique the actions of these characters, and, in turn, to empathetically relate with others. For the sixth graders participating in his research, emotional and imaginative literary engagement was essential to their ability to discern the realities of the immigrants in the novels they were reading, and to compassionately comprehend the immigrant realities of their classroom and school peers.

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Education Commons