Building a Reading Culture: a Nation-wide Study of Reading and School Libraries in Singapore Secondary Schools

Project Number
OER 05/16 LCE

Project Duration
August 2016 - February 2020


Much research has documented the strong correlation between independent reading and academic achievement. Given the importance of reading as a foundational skill for learning and academic acheivement, and in the wake of worldwide concerns with literacy rates, partly fuelled by national ranking on international tests such as the Programme for International Assessment (PISA), many nations have leaned towards technicist approaches towards reading, in the hopes that systematic standardized instruction would improve the reading scores of students. Rather than focusing on the student-as-problem, the study draws on findings from two earlier studies on reading and school libraries in Singapore, one in an elite all-boys school and the other in a co-educational government school to examine how secondary school libraries, typically under-used in the Singapore secondary schooling context, can serve as a central node in cultivating a reading and learning culture in Singapore secondary schools. The study draws on extensive research on the correlation between reading and academic achievement, socio-spatial approachs to understanding reading and school libraries, and school library research, particularly on evidence-based approaches that demonstrate how school libraries can better contribute to cultivating reading and learning cultures in secondary schools. This large-scale nation-wide mix-methods baseline study of reading and school libraries is guided by the following research questions: (1) What are principals, school library coordinators and teachers' perspectives of the role and usage of their school libraries? (2) What are the reading habits and practices of students in six Singapore secondary schools? (3) What are the patterns of reading and library usage in these six secondary schools? (4) How are these school libraries integrated into the reading and learning culture of these schools? Stage One of the study consists of a large-scale survey of Principals, Library Coordinators and Teachers' perception and uses of their school libraries, and include focus groups to refine the survey questions and follow up on survey findings. Stage Two of the study consists of a geosemiotic investigation of the reading and school library culture in six representative schools. Key research data for schools include: school-wide surveys of reading habits and practices, visual maps of the library space and time maps of library usage, borrowing records, student interviews and artefacts, interviews with teachers and staff, and school and classroom observations. The study aims to provide a baseline understanding of the reading and school library culture in Singapore, and to formulate a socio-spatial framework (cf. quantitative approaches) for the evaluation of effective school library spaces, thus contributing to international research on building a readng culture in secondary schols, and evaluation of school libraries and other educational spaces. Given the previous lack of attention to school libraries in Singapore, the research findings will guide school development and professional development design opportunties. More immediately, the regular feedback to case study schools will ensure timely and localized evidence-driven reforms and innovations at school level. An intervention study that involves the design of an exemplary school library will follow, amplifying the possible policy and practical implications of the study.

Funding Source

Related Links
Project website: Reading Culture Singapore
SingTeach Issue 58 (2016): Effective Library Spaces in Schools

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