Alt Title

Literate adult non-readers

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Stahl, Norman A., 1949-

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Literacy Education


Adulthood--Books and reading; Books and reading; Literacy; Leisure


This dissertation explored the question of why some literate adults embrace literacy as part of their daily lives and others do not. In-depth interviewing was used to gather information about literacy development and use among a group of literate adults enrolled in a time-shortened baccalaureate degree program. The constant comparative method of data analysis was used to identify themes that emerged from the participant data. As a result of the data analysis, a theory grounded in the data surfaced. The dissertation had the following objectives: (a) to determine whether personal, social, and/or economic benefits derive from an actively literate populace, (b) to begin to collect information about literate adults who have not developed the reading habit, (c) to determine if any common characteristics exist among literate adult nonreaders, and (d) to stimulate further research into adult reading habits to determine if literacy education is fulfilling its goal of creating a nation of readers. Data analysis resulted in themes in three major areas impacting the adult leisure reading habit: (1) family/community/culture, (2) school, and (3) motivational factors. In the area of family/community/culture, common themes were the influence of nonparental adult models, late-onset reading engagement, indirect adult modeling, and the inner conflict that results when adult nonreaders seek to become reading models for their children. The social constructivist model was used as a lens through which the literacy experiences of this study's population were viewed. Themes emerging from the participants' comments connecting their school experiences with their literacy development converged into four major areas: (1) teaching methods and style, (2) choice and challenge, (3) attention to individual differences, and (4) assessment. Most interesting in the area of motivation was a pattern of reading resiliency, the late onset of emergent reading resulting from a trigger event. Flow theory and research on avid readers provided a framework for participant experiences. The grounded theory emerging from participant stories focuses on the imbalance in attention given to the cognitive and affective domains in reading development and instruction. It suggests refocusing research and instruction on the affective domain, on social contexts, and on literacy development throughout the lifespan.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [207]-221)


viii, 230 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type