A study of the thematic content preference of young children in Northern Ireland learning to read.

Gray, M. Elizabeth (1981). A study of the thematic content preference of young children in Northern Ireland learning to read. MPhil thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000fcb8

Abstract

This study investigated the thematic content preference of boys and girls at the beginner reader stage and surveyed the type of material used in Northern Ireland to teach children to begin reading. By two stage random sampling procedure, 96 schools were selected out of the total 1110 primary schools and 36 preparatory schools in Northern Ireland. From them, a sample of 899 children, 433 boys and 466 girls was drawn.

A specially developed picture test, administered to individual children, was used to assess theme preference. The analysis of theme preference was undertaken from three different aspects:
(1) How each picture was ranked (ranking)
(2) How each place in the individual’s ranking was filled (selection) and
(3) Preference expressed through illustrated theme.

Variables taken into consideration were: sex, age, social class and religion of children; locality, size, sex, type and Area Board of school, and reading scheme in use. A series of regression analyses followed by a series of one-way analyses of variance were carried out overall and for boys and girls separately. Wide sex differences in theme preference were found.

Reading schemes most used in the schools were, in order of popularity, ’Ladybird’, ’Happy Venture’, and ’Janet and John’. With the exception of ’Happy Venture’, this was found to be similar to usage in England. While, in general, girls were interested in the thematic content of these reading schemes, no correspondence was found between themes and the stated preferences of boys since boys showed an interest in themes of violence and adventure.

The results are applied to boys' progress in learning to read and suggestions are made for improving boys’ tuition.

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