Taiwanese EFL adolescents reading American young adult literature:
a reader response study

Li-Feng Lee, Friday 11.00-11.30

Advocates of using children’s and young adult literature with English language learners have claimed its affective, linguistic, cultural, and literary benefits (e.g. Custodio & Sutton, 1998; Ghosn, 2002; Watts, 1999). Utilizing literature as an authentic material to help EFL/ESL students develop language skills has been well documented (Krashen, 2004). However, few studies have explored the socio-cultural nature of English language learners’ responses to literature, let alone to provide insight into how reading literature can foster their personal engagement with the text or develop their multicultural awareness.
The main purpose of this study is to investigate how EFL students construct meanings in comprehending young adult (YA) literature and to determine what role culture plays in their reading process. Participants in the present study are six 11th-grade Taiwanese EFL adolescents, reading American YA short stories in an after-school English book club for a period of six weeks. I addressed two research questions: First, how did the EFL students make sense of the stories? Second, what were the characteristics of their intercultural awareness identified in their reading responses? Data sources included questionnaires, response journals, group discussion transcripts, and individual interviews. Results indicated three levels of literary response emergent from students’ responses: transacting, interpreting, and evaluating. Students made different levels of response by drawing on various frames of reference, including linguistic, personal, intertextual, and socio-cultural dimensions. In addition, students’ culture-bound responses initially seemed to be limited but, when prompted by the teacher’s questions, recurred extensively. This study offers instructional implications for classroom practices and suggests the criteria for YA book selection.

Li-Feng Lee is an assistant professor in Department of Applied Foreign Languages at National Formosa University, Taiwan, where she teaches Children’s and Young Adult Literature and Language and Culture. She holds a PhD degree in Children’s and Young Adult Literature from Ohio State University, USA.