Language and literacy development in a Cambodian community in Philadelphia

Joel Carlton Hardman, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation focuses on learning in a group of families linked locally by an adult ESL class, and more largely linked by common histories, cultures, languages, and national origins. The interpretations presented in the dissertation draw on both qualitative and quantitative analyses of the data collected over three years, the goal being to describe and compare language and literacy use, attitudes, and development as observed among adults and children in this Cambodian community. Regarding language and literacy use at home, this study concludes that new relations of power and knowledge in the families reflects the children's competencies in the language of wider communication in this society which the parents do not have. However, these new relations do not entirely upset the old ones. In the school context, this study finds multiple voices jostling to define how languages should be learned and used in the classroom. It remains the case that there is a lack of support, either locally or at the state level, for educational programs in this community which would actively develop biliteracy skills. It is shown that there is a great possibility for family biliteracy in this community--that more-capable siblings can follow up on their understandings of their parents' desires for language and literacy maintenance. In either child, adult or family literacy programs, the 'funds of knowledge' that both parents and children are able to pass on to each other should be tapped.

Subject Area

Language arts|Linguistics|Bilingual education|Multicultural education

Recommended Citation

Hardman, Joel Carlton, "Language and literacy development in a Cambodian community in Philadelphia" (1994). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9521043.