Literate Behaviors in African American Head Start Families: A Multiple Literacies Perspective
Daniels, Janese Kerr
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Low literacy and illiteracy have been documented among low-income African American children. The problems associated with low literacy and illiteracy often extend into adulthood, with potentially devastating consequences. Low-income African American caregivers are frequently portrayed as devoid of any interest in their children's literacy development and achievement. Additionally, it has been suggested that these caregivers provide homes that are literacy impoverished, often without any literacy activities (e.g. shared book reading, visits to the library) occurring on a routine basis. Qualitative researchers have documented specific literacy practices in which low-income families engage. Frequently, these literacy practices are a function of the context in which the family is currently embedded. Although a qualitative literature exists regarding these literacy practices, its utility is limited due to small sample sizes and lack of quantitative documentation on their contribution to children's language and literacy development. This study attempted to bridge the gap between the qualitative and quantitative literatures. Fifty-one low-income African American mother-child dyads participated in this exploratory family literacy study. The contribution of multiple literacy practices, both traditional and non-traditional, was examined in relation to child language and literacy outcomes. It was found that most low-income African American families engaged in multiple literacy practices. Analyses revealed that although the quality of the home literacy environment contributed to children's language and literacy development, child receptive language explained most of the variance in children's preschool literacy development. Recommended areas for future research directions included standardization of an instrument to capture literacy practices that have been highlighted in both the qualitative and quantitative literatures. Additional recommendations for practitioners included providing parent training that encouraged families to use non-traditional literacy practices to help facilitate their children's literacy development.