UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Making connections : literacy practices of Karen refugee families in the home, community, and family literacy program Friedrich, Nicola Suzanne


Critics of family literacy programs within culturally and linguistically diverse communities have long argued that these programs simply transmit school-like practices into the homes of participating families (Auerbach, 1989; Reyes & Torres, 2007). Although sociocultural researchers have demonstrated that family literacy programs can and do reflect the sociocultural realities of immigrant and refugee families, without descriptions of how literacy is enacted, it is difficult to determine if practices specific to one context are taken up within the other. The purpose of this study is to document and describe the contextualized literacy practices of families within a community of resettled Karen refugees while they participate in a bilingual family literacy program in an urban centre in western Canada. Drawing from sociocultural theory, this ethnographic case study of parents and their pre-school aged children focuses on the families’ enactment of literacy events mediating social activity during play in two early learning settings: the home and a bilingual family literacy program. Observed literacy events were analyzed through the lens of the activity system (Engeström, 2001) in order to identify the meditational means the participants used to create and re-create situated practice (Gutiérrez, Baquedano‐López, & Tejeda, 1999) during play. The findings suggest that, through their participation in the program, the Karen parents came to understand activity within the social activity domain of play as fostering the early literacy development of their pre-school aged children. However, rather than abandoning traditional learning practices, by drawing from culturally formed tools and culturally specific participant structures, the Karen parents transformed situated practice with the result being an expanded form of social activity during play in both the home and in the family literacy program. This study enhances our understanding of how literacy events are enacted in the homes of the resettled Karen refugee families and in the bilingual family literacy program in which they participate. Administrators and facilitators responsible for the delivery of family literacy programs within culturally and linguistically diverse communities can draw from insights generated from this study to ensure their programming recognizes and values the diverse meditational means participating families bring to the program.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International