Responses of four adolescent females to adolescent fiction with strong female characters

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Virginia Tech

This study is an investigation of responses of four adolescent girls to the characters in two adolescent novels: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor; and Lyddie, by Katherine Paterson. The novels were chosen because the main characters are strong, independent young females, whose various struggles could provide a medium for a discussion of the needs, preoccupations, and aspirations of the girls in the study. The approach to the series of book discussions was based on Louise Rosenblatt’s conceptions of literature as human experience and a medium for exploration. The research was further informed by multiple perspectives on reader response theory as presented by Richard Beach, and by the work of Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule on the various ways women approach learning. Although response begins as an individual activity, a primary focus of the study was an investigation of responses shared in a group setting.

The study is a contribution to the efforts of educators and others concerned with the enhancement of women’s confidence by a validation of their experiences, and through demonstrations of social constructions of meaning.