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UBC Theses and Dissertations

In search of home : family literacy practices among Iranian refugee and immigrant families Ghaffartehrani, Mahshid


This thesis presents a case study of the family literacy practices of an Iranian refugee family and an Iranian immigrant family, both with a young child (aged between 6-9) in Canada. It also identifies the Iranian immigrant and refugee families’ beliefs about perceptions of their first language (L1) and second language (L2) (English, Farsi ) as well as the needs, resources, barriers, and expectations for addressing their children’s early literacy development. This study addresses a gap in the research with Iranian minority families and draws attention to difference between refugees’ and immigrants’ family literacy practices, considering Ogbu’s differentiation between voluntary/involuntary migration. The study was informed by sociocultural theories of literacy and literacy as a social practice. Data collection included participant observation, field notes, semi-structured interviews, and collection of artifacts such as children’s writing and drawing. The data were analyzed using thematic analysis (LeCompte & Schensul, 1999) with a focus on literacy events. The refugee and the immigrant children shared various literacy practices shaped in their social communities by their family, peers and teachers. However, the children differed in terms of their home literacy practices which were shaped by their parents’ experiences, social position, migrant status, and cultural and social capital. For example, the immigrant family viewed literacy as a skill that needed to be taught and learned, ensured the child practiced at home, and provided tutoring. The refugee family did not expect the children to practice literacy skills at home and were unable to provide tutoring. While the voluntary migrant family ensured the children maintained their first language, the involuntary migrant family did not. Consistent with Ogbu’s hypothesis the child from the voluntary migrant family performed well in school while the child from the involuntary migrant family struggled. Contrary to Ogbu’s hypothesis, the involuntary migrant family were eager to acculturate into the dominant society whereas the voluntary migrant family were less so inclined, maintaining strong links with their homeland, and its culture and language. The findings of this study have implications for future research, families and educators.

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