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Title: Reading together : an ethnographic study of a reading group for visually-impaired people
Author: Hyder, Eileen
ISNI:       0000 0004 2709 7412
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2010
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Because reading groups historically have been under-researched (Long, 2003), the literature in this field is limited, presenting this as an interesting area for researchers. A need for further research is also explained by the fact that the traditional model of a reading group has been expanded through recent library policies leading to the development of specific group types such as groups for visually-impaired people (VIPs). To date, there have been no long-term empirical studies of these groups. This thesis, therefore, makes a significant contribution to the literature in this field by providing an in-depth exploration of a VIP reading group. The thesis is an ethnographic study which follows a library-run reading group for visually-impaired people from its formation in September 2007 and concentrates on five of the group members. The methodology for the study is influenced by participatory approaches to research involving disabled people by inviting the participants to participate in the co-creation of knowledge about themselves (French & Swain, 2000, p. 1). It is also influenced by new ethnography’s preference for multi-layered texts by exploring both the individual and collective experiences of the participants. While the participants are defined throughout as readers, visual-impairment plays a role in their experiences. I show that visually-impaired readers and reading groups sit within a complex web of factors which impact on their experiences both as individual readers and as a group. The study also shows that VIP reading groups challenge traditional definitions of reading as a visual activity. The study explores issues of power and concludes that, because ownership of the group lies with the library, this challenges the idea of reading groups empowering their members. Furthermore, offering discrete groups for visually-impaired readers means that the role these groups play in contributing to agendas for social inclusion is problematic. The study concludes by making suggestions as to how these groups might develop to be more inclusive and empowering.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available