Recognising the Power of Pleasure: What Engaged Adolescent Readers Get from Their Free-Choice Reading, and How Teachers Can Leverage This for All

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This three-year qualitative study explored the reading of 14 middle graders who self-identified as passionate readers, and of 15 secondary school students who were highly engaged readers of genres typically marginalised in school: romance, dystopia, fantasy, vampire and horror. The purpose of the study was to help teachers think about free choice reading, including of marginalised genres, and to help teachers think about pedagogic responses. One salient finding reported here was that free reading of all kinds, including that of marginalised genres, brought readers five distinct kinds of pleasure (each pleasure in turn bringing many ancillary benefits): the immersive pleasure of play, intellectual pleasure, social pleasure, the pleasure of functional work, and the pleasure of inner work. Pleasure, however, and the benefits that accrue from it, is largely neglected as a research topic. With the exception of intellectual pleasure, the identified pleasures were not directly fostered in the schools where the study took place – although they easily could be. Implications include the centrality of pleasure to fostering competent and lifelong reading, as well as ways that teachers can value free-choice reading and promote the pleasures of reading in their classrooms.

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