"Children Selecting Books in a Library": Extending Models of Information Behavior to a Recreational Setting

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Literacy researchers suggest that book-selection strategies are part of successful literacy development, and in several research studies children reported that finding books they like is the biggest barrier they face to reading. Despite much attention to particular aspects of children's reading habits, few studies have examined the processes children use to select books. Against this backdrop, this study undertook a qualitative investigation of primary-school children's selection of books for recreational reading in a public library over the summer.

Book selection was examined from the perspective of library and information science (LIS) models of information behavior and relevance assessment. To expand LIS research into the recreational realm, the study also drew upon reader-response theory in education and uses-and-gratifications theory in communications.

Using a multiple-case study design, the study collected questionnaire, interview, and observation data from 20 7- to 9-year-old children and their parents during several sessions at their homes and at the public library. The data were analyzed with a grounded-theory approach.

During the study, the children spoke in general of the gratifications--cognitive, emotional, and social--that reading provides. When embarking on book selection at the library, however, they did not mention specific needs they sought to fill. When browsing the library, the children exhibited successively more involvement with books, examining them externally and internally and focusing on a variety of elements. The central aspects influencing children's selection of books were contents and reading experience.

Several differences emerged among the children: older children were more purposeful in their behaviors than younger children; girls were more independent than boys; some children had strong preferences that influenced their book-selection practices; and children exhibited distinct book-selection strategies. Finally, children rarely acknowledged receiving formal instruction in book selection and faced a number of obstacles related to library terminology and concepts.

Within the LIS field, this research contributes to an expanded understanding of information behavior. The findings have implications for strategies to encourage effective book selection through library instruction and parental involvement as well as for approaches to improve library services and systems, such as readers' advisory, shelf arrangement, and digital libraries.