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Title: Exploring Tanzanian Students' Experiences and Engagement with English-Language Books in School Library Spaces
Author: Choi, Nard
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 6013
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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The present challenges in the field of literacy and reading in the Tanzanian educational context are complex and multifaceted. A significant body of research attributes many of the difficulties teachers and students face to the language of instruction policies that prioritise English when it is not the dominant language used at home. Schools also heavily depend on books donations from North America and the UK to provide English-language books for students, which often do not reflect the cultural backgrounds or experiences of young readers. Consequently, scholars have expressed concerns that book donations continue to reinforce not only the imperialistic hegemony of the English language in postcolonial settings, but also Western, English-speaking culture. While my study recognises the fraught political and ideological foundations of these concerns, the study also establishes that there is a complete impasse between recommendations made by research and the existing systemic structures that shape the realities of students. Therefore, this qualitative study explores the perspectives and meaning-making processes of students reading English-language books in the setting of the private English-medium school in order to attend to the contextually-specific experiences of young readers. Theories of literacy as a social practice and reader-response theory inform the study's enquiry into Tanzanian students' perspectives about reading and how they draw meaning from English-language texts. The study gathered data using the methods of observation, photography and collage making, reading group discussions, and personal interviews in order to present a socioculturally situated analysis of the students' reading experiences. Findings from the study indicate that the students' attitudes about reading are embedded in the priorities of learning English and reading for predominantly instrumental purposes. However, the research also finds that the prioritisation of English stems from the systemic structures of the Tanzanian education system rather than an elevation of Western culture. The students' responses additionally demonstrate how they actively constructed their role as readers in relation to their personal ambitions and the literacy practices established by wider sociocultural understandings of texts. The insights from the study may provide guidance for schools and literacy initiatives to promote reading in ways that build upon young readers' existing understandings and approaches to texts and that reflect their priorities and motivations for reading. The study may also provide a research model that can be adapted for conducting similar in-depth research into the nuances and multi-layered complexities of reading and literacy in the postcolonial African context.
Supervisor: Jaques, Zoe Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: reader response ; language policy ; school libraries ; Tanzanian education