Neighborhood family literacy beliefs and practices

Bernadette Margaret Mulligan Janis, University of Pennsylvania


A major contribution of this study is that compared to past family literacy research, it uncovers a broader representation of the kinds of literacy practices families partake in today. This contribution is significant because both parents and school have particular expectations of what should encompass children's literacy experiences at home. The study reveals that children are reading and writing at home in ways that parents and school have overlooked or have not realized but should consider as representative of literacy. Early family literacy researches, Heath (1983), Taylor (1983), and Taylor & Dorsey-Gaines (1988), for example, provided ethnographic descriptions on types and uses of literacy common families. Their accounts introduced us to the roles reading and writing play in the everyday lives of individuals. My study distinguished itself from their research in that it reveals the impact of technology on contemporary families' literacy practices. School has expectations about how parents should oversee their children's reading and writing education. Further, it holds a particular view of what this involvement entails. Parents want to actively oversee and participate in their children's literacy learning. However, they acknowledge that there are occasions when they feel they are not living up to school's expectations of them because they are not facilitating the kinds of reading and writing activities that school is encouraging. This study reveals that parents and their children are engaged in a wide-range of literacy practices on a daily basis, often reflecting the influence of technology. These literacy activities are motivated by their day to day responsibilities and interests. The parents, however, are often not aware that they are in fact encouraging and contributing to their children's reading and writing development. This lack of awareness is due in part to both families and school being conditions to perceive reading and writing activities in very particular terms. For example, school typically asks parents to read to their children nightly. The parents might not be conducting this book reading on a regular basis but they are reading together in other ways.

Subject Area

Literacy|Reading instruction|Language arts|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Janis, Bernadette Margaret Mulligan, "Neighborhood family literacy beliefs and practices" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9830676.