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THE POSITIVE ROLE MOTHERS-IN-CRISIS PLAY IN HELPING THEIR CHILDREN LEARN TO READ Arlene Mascarenhas, Julie K. Kidd,

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Presentation on theme: "THE POSITIVE ROLE MOTHERS-IN-CRISIS PLAY IN HELPING THEIR CHILDREN LEARN TO READ Arlene Mascarenhas, Julie K. Kidd,"— Presentation transcript:

1 THE POSITIVE ROLE MOTHERS-IN-CRISIS PLAY IN HELPING THEIR CHILDREN LEARN TO READ Arlene Mascarenhas, Julie K. Kidd, George Mason University Paper Presented at the Association of Literacy Educators Annual Meeting on November 2, 2012 in Grand Rapids, MI

2 The Positive Role Mothers-in-Crisis Play in Helping Their Children Learn to Read The Research Children in stable environments tend to be more successful in school than children who face crises due to poverty (Dickinson & Snow, 1987; Sonnenschein, & Munsterman, 2002; Tunmer, Chapman, & Pronchow, 2006). My own experiences as a teacher and as a tutor at a transitional housing facility and a homeless shelter have shown that children-in-crisis are able to excel in school. Some children had early literacy skills, and were able to identify the letters of the alphabet, sounds, recognize words, and understand the concept of how the text tells a story Many children with early literacy skills were not consistently enrolled in any preschool programs; majority of their time was spent with their mothers, which suggests their literacy success is related to their mother’s instruction The lack of research examining a mother’s role in helping her child develop early reading skills, particularly those living in crisis situations, prompted my desire to explore how these women helped their children acquire early literacy 1

3 Purpose The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the impact that mothers in crisis can make in helping their children to acquire early literacy skills. This study examined Three mothers living in transitional housing What they did to help their children overcome the obstacles of homelessness How they taught their children the foundations of reading in order to prepare them for school 2

4 Conceptual Framework Deficit Theories Members of marginalized groups are categorized according to the deficit theories devised by society. These theories were created as an attempt to explain why certain groups seem to be at a disadvantage to the dominant society (Olivos, 2006; Skerry, 1993; Solorzano, 1997). Capital Economic, cultural, institutional, and social capital (Bordieau 1986; Carter, 2005; Olivos, 2006) skews the school personnel’s perception of parents. This affects the role of parents, their involvement in the school and the academic success of their children 3

5 Research Questions What are the habits and characteristics of mothers-in- crisis who help their children develop early literacy skills? What forms of capital do mothers-in-crisis who help their children develop early literacy skills exhibit? 4

6 Design Used phenomenological case study to understand what mothers in crisis do to help their children acquire early literacy skills Phenomenologists seek to find a universal phenomenon through the lived experiences of individuals (Creswell, 2013; Merriam 1998).

7 Participants* Three mothers who appeared to have helped their children acquire strong early literacy skills were recommended by the child service coordinator or tutor at a transitional housing facility in the Mid-Atlantic region to participate in this study. Catherine, a Caucasian mother of three children, two girls and one boy. Her life was in turmoil during the early stages of Ellen’s development. Ellen, who was 8 at the time of the interview, entered kindergarten with strong literacy and verbal skills. She was in the process of being recommended for the gifted program at the time of the interview. Stacy, a 28-year-old African American woman with one 6-year-old daughter. She had been in crisis prior to moving to transitional housing. Her daughter, Daphne, was in first grade and was exhibiting strong literacy skills when she entered school. Katy, a 28-year-old African American mother of three girls. She was married when she started teaching her daughter, Jasmine, early literacy skills. She left her husband due to his money mismanagement and severe financial debt. She is currently living with her daughters in transitional housing. Her youngest daughter, Jasmine, was in kindergarten and was exhibiting strong literacy skills at the time of the interview. *All of the names are pseudonyms 5

8 Interviews Mothers participated in an open-ended interview Interviewing gives the researcher the opportunity to go to places and understand settings which they otherwise would not have access (Glesne, 2006; Seidman,1998; Weiss,1994). The fixed-question open-ended interview protocol focused on the following: mothers’ reading experiences as children mothers’ own reading habits when they started reading to their children the frequency with which they read to their children what they to did engage their children in the stories they read to them whether mothers thought their habits played a role in helping their children achieve early literacy how the mothers monitored their children’s academic work the importance of language skills what the mothers planned to do to help their children in the future what changes they might have made to help their child in their early years if any what advice they might give to other mothers to help their children acquire early literacy skills 6

9 Positive Habits and Characteristics of the Mothers The Mothers Are avid readers Have strong religious beliefs Read to children early and read with children regularly Use technology as an instructional tool Teach children holistically, through drill, or a combination of both methods Challenge and motivate their children Believe in the power of using good language Use their own negative educational experiences to prevent their children from having the same experiences Put their children’s learning above everything else in their lives 7

10 Findings Within and Across Cases 8 Use familiar songs/Bible verses Incentives/neighbor- hood programs Word wall Assigns a book a day Skills based/drills Flashcards Stacy Combination of methods Uses own experiences Work/ teaching connection Challenge child Steps back when frustrated Katy Tells stories/ uses drama Push above and beyond age Uses past mistakes to avoid child replicating Suggests books to read Verbal praise Steps back when frustrated Catherine Start young Make child’s learning a priority Encourages/ motivates Avid readers Reads to children at bedtime Use of technology Promote autonomy Promote strong vocabulary skills Consistency All mothers

11 Forms of Capital Catherine exhibits social, institutional, and cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1986). She worked closely with the school system through Ellen’s referral process for the gifted program. She worked with other mothers to share daycare expenses. She networked with other current and former employees regarding job availability. Stacy exhibits cultural and institutional capital. She removed Daphne from the Head Start program when she believed it was not providing instruction. She worked with Daphne’s teacher to find out how she could help her to practice writing at home. She explored the internet and neighborhood programs to provide incentives to reward Daphne for her accomplishments. Katy exhibits institutional capital. She worked in partnership with Jasmine’s teacher to create a system to challenge her when she was working in school so that she wouldn’t be bored. She advocated for her youngest child who has special needs to ensure that she would receive appropriate services. 9

12 Dispelling Deficit Theories Catherine Despite reported having a turbulent and abusive marriage, she started reading to Ellen and making up stories to tell her when she was born. Although she did go to preschool, she had already been reading to her. Ellen entered kindergarten reading above grade level, and at the time of the interview she was being tested for the gifted program. Catherine also reported that Ellen had an adult-like vocabulary. It is apparent that Catherine dispelled the deficit theories and led her daughter to early literacy. 10

13 Dispelling Deficit Theories Stacy Stacy experienced economic hardship; she had been in a homeless situation more than once and she was raising her daughter on her own. Despite this, Stacy did everything that she could to help her daughter to learn the skills that she needed to enter kindergarten on an even plane with her mainstream peers. She elected to pull her out of Head Start because she was not satisfied with the program. She taught her letters, sounds, and sight words to be ready for kindergarten. It is quite evident that Stacy’s critical role in her daughter’s literacy learning dispels the deficit theory. 11

14 Dispelling Deficit Theories Katy Katy experienced economic hardship. Her marriage ended due to her husband’s financial mismanagement. Throughout this crisis however, she maintained her focus on her children; she started reading to her daughters from birth. When Jasmine was five weeks old, Katy went back to work as a preschool/daycare teacher and has the advantage of knowing what is important to do at home to help her children to learn early literacy skills, She listened to Jasmine reading while she was driving the school bus which was her second job. Jasmine was reading above level in kindergarten so she and the teacher had to devise a plan to challenge her so she wouldn’t be bored. Here is evidence that Katy’s role in helping her daughter enter kindergarten with skills that elevated her to an accelerated level dispels the deficit theory. 12

15 Implications Important to share information with mothers in similar circumstances, so they can better understand and value their role as their child’s first literacy teacher Mothers of successful students could give presentations at shelters and community centers about their experiences and how they helped their children acquire early literacy. Relate and connect with mothers going through similar experiences It is possible for their child to attain similar early literacy success 13

16 Implications Teachers might not be aware that parents who experience major crises could play a major role in helping their children build a foundation for reading. Teachers can reach out and advocate for all parents to become actively involved in their child’s education Parents can take active and equal role as experts in making decisions regarding their children’s education. Publishing this information would help educators recognize the positive impact mothers can make to dispel the misconceptions, and help foster stronger home-school partnerships. 14

17 Conclusion Advice to Other Mothers “Work with them every day and when they’re small. Make them want to do it.” (Stacy) “Everything, every subject in school requires reading…keep them reading.” (Catherine) “Don’t wait, just the earlier the better. Especially when they’re babies. They might not see the pictures, or look like they’re listening, but it’s very important.” (Katy) 15

18 References Bordieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J.G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of Theory and research for the society of education.(pp ). New York, NY:Cambridge University Press. Carter, P. (2005). Keepin’ it Real: School success beyond black and white. New York: Oxford University Press Dickinson, D. K. & Snow, C. E, (1987). Interrelationships among prereading and oral language skills in kindergarten from two social classes. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 2, Glesne, C. (2006). Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction. 3rd ed. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc 18

19 References Merriam, S. B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study: Applications in education. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA Olivos, G.(1996). Con respeto: Building the distances between culturally diverse families and schools. An ethnographic portrait. New York, NY:Teachers College Press, Columbia University. Seidman, I. (1998). Interviewing as qualitative research. New York, NY:Teachers College Press. Skerry, P. (1993). Mexican Americans: The ambivalent minority. New York, NY: The Free Press Solorzano, D. G. (1997). Images and words that wound: Critical race theory, racial stereotyping, and teacher education. Teacher Education Quarterly, 24, 5-19.

20 References Sonnenschein, S. & Munsterman, K. (2002) The influence of home-based reading interactions on 5-year-olds’ reading motivations and early literacy development. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 17, Tunmer, E., Chapman, J.W., & Pronchow, J. E. (2006). Literate cultural capital at school entry predicts later reading achievement: A seven year longitudinal study. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 41,


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