Middle Years Teachers' and Students' Responses to Young Adult Literature with Online Content




Ginther, Ruth Ann

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Literature for young adults, which has undergone significant changes in the last few decades and continues to evolve rapidly, is increasingly accompanied by Internet materials which attempt to fulfill a variety of purposes. The overall purpose of this qualitative study was to develop an understanding of middle years teachers’ and students’ responses to these printed and online texts. This research explored the nature of the online content being created and the usefulness of Genette’s (1997) concepts of paratexts in understanding these materials, as well as the responses of middle years teachers and students to a selected set of novels and the online content related to those novels. A collective case study approach was used to probe the responses of four teachers and six students from four mid-sized western Canadian cities. Data were collected through in-person and Skype interviews and through written response journals. Within-case and cross-case analysis occurred using thematic coding methods. Themes were identified in both the students’ and teachers’ responses, and these themes were observed to align in six significant ways. Both teachers and students agreed that audio and visual materials online may evoke a strong response and that the opinions and ideas of other readers are interesting and influential. The teachers predicted and the students confirmed that their response to the websites was largely determined by their response to the printed texts. The two participant groups both indicated that they viewed the printed texts as of primary importance and that the content of the websites had the power to change their thinking about those texts. Finally, both teachers and students described a tendency to make quick decisions about their interest in the content of a website. Implications for pedagogy include the need for educators to investigate these online materials and to consider students’ out-of-school literacy skills and preferences in order to make intentional, informed decisions about their use in the curriculum. Recommendations for future research include the exploration of a wider range of printed and online texts, examination of the responses of students from different age groups to these texts, and investigation of the impact of participation in the book-related websites on adolescents’ identity development.



digital paratexts, middle years, young adult literature, reader response, online materials