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A seminal body of work emerged in the 1980s recognising reading as a site for gender and class identity work. However, understandings around working-class girls’ reading identities are invisible in the current Australian education policy space where gender equalities with respect to curriculum subjects have disappeared. This paper draws on a broader study of the reading experiences of 615 boys and girls attending elementary schools in Australia to focuses on interviews with eight girls (9–11 years old) attending schools in lower socioeconomic communities. The paper explores the girls’ perspectives on reading, being popular at school, and academic success from an understanding of literacy as social practice. Highlighted are discourses of femininity associated with reading where popularity is associated with anti-reading identities; being pretty and hanging out with the boys is associated with higher social status; and doing well academically can lead to social marginalisation. Highlighted are tensions between the lived lives of the girls and the idealised feminine reader depicted in the educational policy context in Australia and broader performativity agendas where girls are illustrated as successful and motivated readers.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Journal Article

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