Date of Completion


Embargo Period



alternative schools; young adult literature; secondary English education

Major Advisor

Dr. Hannah Dostal

Associate Advisor

Dr. Wendy Glenn

Associate Advisor

Dr. Robin Grenier

Associate Advisor

Dr. Rachael Gabriel

Field of Study

Curriculum and Instruction


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


This research was a 12-week-long study of six participants attending the same alternative high school in a suburban district in the northeast of the United States. Rosenblatt’s Reader Response Theory and interpretative qualitative methodology were used to examine participants’ reactions to reading self-selected young adult (YA) literature during their Readers’ Workshop time in their English class. Data were gathered in a naturalistic ways, and the data gathering methods were informed by the participants and circumstance. Data sources included: participant interviews; participant reading journals; other artifacts completed in response to participants’ reading; and daily participant reading logs. The data sources were analyzed using inductive analysis, where categories and themes were derived specifically from the data, rather than from any pre-formed ideas, assumptions, or models (Thomas, 2006; Elo & Kyngäs, 2008).

Data from this study suggest that students in an alternative school react to their reading with expressions of empathy for the characters; expressions of wonder and questioning; expressions of negative reactions; and reactions to the act of reading. The findings of this study have instructional implications for teachers in alternative school settings, as well as for future research design. These implications center on engaging with texts through personal connection; examining reading experiences in relation to adolescent identity development; exploring adolescents’ feelings of empathy for characters; and developing positive reading identities in adolescents.