Forum Radio: Reading is special

Thursday, 02 June 2022 16:58

Anežka Kuzmičová is a researcher at Charles University who, for the last two years, has conducted creative research into children’s reading. Educators as well as scientists often study or emphasise literacy and language acquisition but there has been relatively little study of what children actually experience as they read: what they take in from stories while they read and what stays with them afterwards.

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Kuzmičová opted for a different approach. She and her team devised and combined various child-friendly methods to get below the surface: to get at what children feel and experience while reading but are rarely asked to describe. Here’s a sneak peek: some kids are swept away by the plot, others identify with characters, others see reading as intellectual performance.

Such diverse experiences in children’s reading are the subject this week - at Forum Radio.

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Excerpts from our interview:

“Reading is different. It’s a very fundamental subject in school but it’s also the one skill that you acquire in school that is completely essential to your future survival. It’s a skill and a habit (if you’re lucky) that changes your life fundamentally and also your experiences of what it is to be a person.”

“Children are very rarely asked about their experiences of anything! In general, I would say that society pays relatively little attention to children’s experiences, apart from maybe clinical contexts such as the helping professions and psychology. But generally, one looks at them through the lens of their developing skills and what those skills should be once they are ready-formed, ready-made people, rather than exploring their experiences in their own right.”

“It was a really crazy time during the Covid pandemic: you could never tell what the next week would be like. It was very hard to plan anything, least of all research sessions in the school environment. I very much empathised with school management and felt that the principals of schools should all have been awarded MBAs for how they handled crisis management over the two year period.”

“We took everything we had learned in the first phase of our research, looked at the videos, read the transcripts about their inner experiences when they read… and transformed all of this into two virtual decks of cards. The first deck was about body positions while reading and the experience of reading they had had, whether they had read alone or with friends at story time and so on. The second deck compiled verbatim statements of what the other children had told us about their experience.

With Q-methodology at our disposal, we then asked the children to sort these experience labels on the cards and to sort them on a grid. What is did was allow us to see what children found the most and least similar, and maybe a middle ground, to their own reading experience. We set up individual interviews on Zoom, where the children sorted the labels and interviewed the kids as they were sorting or rather just after they had sorted in very much depth. So we got a lot about the children’s thinking to get to the core of the lived experience from reading. Using Q-methodology this way, over Zoom, may have been a world first.”

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Anežka Kuzmičová and colleague Markéta Supa who work closely in researching children's experiences from reading. From Forum issue No. 56.

Latest publications:

Kuzmičová, A., Supa, M., Segi Lukavská, J., & Novák, F. (2022). Exploring children’s embodied story experiences: a toolkit for research and practiceLiteracy. Early View.

Kuzmičová, A., & Cremin, T. (2022, Open Access). Different fiction genres take children's memories to different placesCambridge Journal of Education, 52(1), 37-53.

Forum Radio - Interview / Episode 3 / Anežka Kuzmičová - Reading is special    / Runtime: 30 min, 32 sec.

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Anežka Kuzmičová studied languages and literature at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University. She received her Ph. D. from Stockholm University and worked in Denmark, England and Canada. She has published the results of her interdisciplinary research on reading with colleagues from 15 countries and countless disciplines, ranging from pedagogy to neuroscience, most of which she has supervised. In 2020, she returned to the Faculty of Arts where she received a Primus grant and founded the Integrating Text & Literacy Research Lab (InT&L). Her research into children’s reading is ongoing and set to enter a new phase soon.


Photo: Martin Pinkas, Vladimír Šigut