The nature of students' efferent or aesthetic responses to nonfiction texts in small, peer-led literature discussion groups
The purpose of this study was to provide an in-depth exploration and describe the nature of fourth graders' responses to nonfiction text in the context of small, peer-led literature discussion groups. This study took place in the teacher researcher's daily, forty-five minute, pull-out intervention time. The participants for this study consisted of a group four fourth grade students from the teacher-researcher's READ 180 class. They were in a reading intervention program because they were considered to be struggling readers. This group of students discussed six nonfiction texts during their forty-minute discussion sessions across twelve weeks. Aesthetic and efferent coding categories were developed prior to the study (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998). This scale was loosely based on Cox and Many's (1992) Instrument for Measuring Reader on an Efferent to Aesthetic Continuum, which was designed for narrative text. However, for this study, adaptations and modifications were made to accommodate reader response to nonfiction text. The teacher researcher recorded field notes, transcribed tapes, and wrote up findings. The teacher researcher acknowledged that students would take an aesthetic and/or efferent stance; however the type of stance was not predetermined. The focus of the study was to deepen an understanding of the responses made in the peer-led discussion groups by closely examining the data and allowing the findings to inform the next decisions. The data from this study revealed that the participants' responses to nonfiction trade books were predominantly in the primarily efferent category with their attention based on the information from the text. Moreover, all students had aesthetic responses in all six peer-led discussion groups. The data also revealed that the small group peer-led discussion groups provided a low risk forum to begin to personally respond to nonfiction by asking questions and making comments freely. In addition, students responded to nonfiction in many, varied, and often unique and individual ways. They expressed their personal evocations of the text in different ways. During these evocations, they made personal connections to past events, family members, other texts, and shows/movies. They continuously shifted from efferent to aesthetic and aesthetic to efferent stances throughout the discussions. Many of the aesthetic responses mirrored interactive read-alouds modeled by the Reading Intervention Teacher. This study suggests that children will respond efferently and aesthetically to nonfiction texts and exhibit diversity within their responses. Nonfiction literature offers readers windows and pathways that lead into the world. Responding to nonfiction can open windows and illuminate the pathways for venturing out into and enjoying the world. When honored and invited to personally engage with nonfiction, each reader can find her unique path that can lead to exploration, fulfillment and enjoyment.