Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Amy Seely Flint

Second Advisor

Dr. Joyce Many

Third Advisor

Dr. Diane Belcher

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Laura May


Individual differences in early literacy skills can be attributed to children’s previous history of emergent literacy experiences during their preschool years. The purpose of this qualitative study was to learn about the emergent literacy experiences of one Libyan American preschooler and one Syrian American preschooler and how their families support these experiences in their bilingual homes. Through the lens of social theory of learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998) and sociocultural theory (Rogoff, 1990; Vygotsky, 1978), this multi-case study was designed to explore family literacy practices with a preschooler in a naturalistic setting. The questions guiding this study were: (1) How did the texts, tools, and technologies available in two bilingual home settings impact the emergent literacy practices of a Libyan American child and a Syrian American child? (2) What support did family members provide for these two children as they developed emergent literacy practices in their bilingual home settings? Data sources included a demographic questionnaire, digital-recordings of family literacy practices with a preschooler, audio-recorded in-depth interviews with the parents, home visits, the preschoolers’ writing samples, and photographs of literacy activities, materials, and the home environment. The recorded family literacy practices and interviews were transcribed and analyzed to identify emerging themes. Both within-case analysis and cross-case analysis were conducted.

Findings revealed that the preschoolers in both families use a multimodal process such as talking, drawing, singing, chanting, recitation, technologies, and sociodramatic play in their daily literacy experiences. The parents are not concerned with teaching their children specific literacy skills; but they naturally use techniques for keeping them on task and questioning skills to enhance oral language and comprehension development. These families’ home literacy practices are Americanized by living in the mainstream social group, and English is frequently used among the family members. However, their bilingualism and religious literacy practices enrich and vary their children’s emergent literacy experiences and their family literacy practices. The significance of this study resides in the importance of getting to know individual families’ backgrounds to better understand and respect the cultural practices of family literacy.