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Open Access Publications from the University of California

¡Quiero estudiar! Mexican Immigrant Mothers' Participation in Their Children's Schooling--and Their Own

  • Author(s): Miano, Alice Anne
  • Advisor(s): Hull, Glynda
  • Valdés, Guadalupe
  • et al.

This dissertation examines the literacy practices and parental school involvement of

a group of seven first-generation Mexican immigrant mothers who participated in native

language literacy classes designed for parents at their children's school. Using ethnographic

methods to detail the mothers' lived histories, cultural moorings, and current

practices at home and at school, the study found that the mothers participated in their

children's schooling--and their own--in a variety of ways, regardless of their individually

varying levels of access to print and formal schooling. Specifically, the mothers enjoined

their own family literacy networks, engaging their children in needed literacy tasks

at home that supported school-based literacies in kind. These social networks involved

print and non-print literate members in exchanges of various forms of assistance, print-related

and otherwise. In parent classes, framed as a safe haven for readers and writers at

all levels, the mothers similarly engaged in exchanges of print literacies and other forms

of cultural capital, such as knowledge about school and community doings.

Through words and actions, the mothers defined parental participation as support

for their children's schooling in seven broad moral and material categories, many of

which have yet to be recognized in much of the academic literature. Specifically, the

mothers defined and enacted parent involvement typologically as: parental presence on

the school grounds; networking with other parents, teachers, or administrators; participating

in school or community activities; literacy and numeracy support; providing material

support for their children such as food, clothing, shelter, hygiene, and transportation; providing

moral support such as encouraging children or keeping after them as needed; and

acting as positive role models for their children.

The study suggests that viewing parental involvement from parental perspectives

may give educators and researchers greater insights into the efforts, achievements, and

challenges of parents from a variety of racial, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds.

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