14 SES 08 B, Parents and Literacy Interventions
This paper reports on home literacy practices of 24 Rwandan rural and urban families with children attending both nursery and primary schools. The poor home literacy environment prevailing in Rwandan families is reportedly said to obstruct early literacy and subsequent acquisition of a reading culture. Research provides evidence that a rich home literacy environment plays a vital role in nurturing early literacy skills and impacts later reading achievement of the children and their intellectual self-fulfilment.
This study on home literacy practices in Rwanda examines family practices, beliefs, and resources to document and understand how Rwandan families support and develop their children’s literacy, considered as a milestone to later reading achievement and education success. It is indeed assumed that children’s literacy is nurtured when their families support activities that promote language and reading activities in the home. In addition, home literacy practices have a strong and enduring effect on children’s literacy skills and language development. However, many parents do not know what home literacy practices and their importance that they already perform in their interactions with their children such as storytelling, book or newspaper sharing, etc. Some parents do not also realize that they are important role models for their children. Similarly, many parents tend to focus so much on just reading that they forget other literacy practices. Based on this aim, the following question will guide this study: How doRwandan families cater for early literacy and reading habits in children?
This study is anchored in a social constructionist perspective of literacy which posits that literacy is socially constructed in particular discourses, social relationships and institutions (Barton & Hamilton 1998; Heath 1983; Jones Diaz & Makin 2002; Prinsloo & Breier 1996; Serpell 2001; Street 1984, 1995, 2001). Literacy is viewed as a socio-cultural practice tied closely to everyday life and its development occurs whenever literacy practices are occurring. In this regard, children’s literacy development is linked to the social practices that surround them and emerges when they observe and participate in these culturally situated literacy practices through the support of their parents, siblings, or adult members of children’s literate communities (Dyson 1992; Teale 1986). In brief, people’s literacy practices are understood from a historical, cultural, and ideological perspective. (Razfar and Gutiérrez 2003).
Home literacy practices encompass a wide range of practices– narration, storytelling, reading aloud, etc. – occurring in families ranging from parent-child interactions to availability of and access to literacy materials. Parent–child interactions with and about books not only build and consolidate their social bonds but also develop especially children’s oral and written language and a desire and thirst to read (Heath 1986; Marsh & Thompson 2001). Heath (1983) adds that the rich home literacy environment also depends on the parents’ socio-educational background, occupation, income as well as cultural practices within their social networks. However, as Snow et al. (1998) in their study on preventing reading difficulties in young children note, families differ enormously in the level to which they provide a supportive environment for children's literacy development.
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