Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Ewa McGrail

Second Advisor

Peggy Albers

Third Advisor

Michelle Zoss

Fourth Advisor

Gabriel Kuperminc


Adolescent disengagement in school and school-related activities continues to be a national problem (Christenson, Reschly, & Wylie, 2012; Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, 2009). Recent research has shown that allowing choice in what adolescents read in school and school-related activities strengthens student engagement (Kittle, 2013; Lee, 2011; Miller, 2009). Much of this literature, however, does not adequately explore the potential of sports texts to foster engaged reading by exploring the cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and agentic components of engagement (Finn, 2012; Yin & Moore, 2004). In addition, researchers have yet to emphasize adolescent voices via qualitative inquiry to add to the knowledge base of student engagement with sports texts (Fredricks, 2004; Ivey & Johnston, 2013). Therefore, educators, teacher educators, administrators, and policymakers need an understanding of the potential to generate interest in adolescents’ engagement with sports texts.

Framed by Rosenblatt's (1994) transactional theory of reading, this qualitative case study (Merriam, 2009; Stake, 2005) examined how adolescents engaged with sports texts as they participated in a voluntary sports reading club. The following questions guided the study: (1) What were the indicators of engagement when selected adolescents interacted with sports texts? (2) What contextual factors brought about the features of student engagement when adolescents explored sports texts?

Participants in this study included three adolescent sports enthusiasts, and data collection occurred November-December 2014 during the 2014-2015 school year. Data sources included semi-structured interviews, participant observation during club meetings, session observation using audio and video recording, and participant journals. Using an evaluative approach to text analysis that involved assessing, categorizing, and evaluating content (Kuckartz, 2014), I found the participants’ engagement with sports texts was varied based on their thinking, emotions, behavior, and sense of agency communicated in the program. Findings suggest that adolescent sports enthusiasts may benefit from opportunities to use sports texts to show their engagement in semi-structured reading and discussion programs through the connections and responses to the texts they read. Findings also suggest that maintaining engagement over a six-week program is a difficult endeavor. Providing almost all-out choice, a casual space to talk and discuss texts, and acknowledging the social dynamics of the group may strengthen engagement in school, afterschool, and community small group reading programs. Finally, the study emphasized the important role that teachers and other adults can play in providing an environment for rich discussion and response by focusing on the features of student engagement.