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Crossing Literacy Fronteras: Latino Immigrant Families' Literacy Practices In and Out of School


This ten-month ethnographic study examines how four Latina immigrant mothers and their young children employed literacy practices within and beyond a two-generation program. Two-generation programs generally serve marginalized families by instructing them on school-based language and literacy practices. This study approaches literacy from sociocultural (i.e., what people do with literacy) and multimodal perspectives (i.e., print, visual, oral, media, and online literacies). The study examines a) the kinds of school-based literacy practices--or aspects of them--that mothers took up in out-of-school contexts; b) the kinds of out-of-school-literacy practices--or aspects of them--that mothers brought to the school site; and c) the continuities and discontinuities of literacy practices across contexts. Data was collected through observations, ethnographic interviews, document analysis, and video. Findings reveal that in out-of-school contexts, some of the school-based literacy practices learned at Nuestra Comunidad were replicated, and/or modified, while others were not taken up. The varying ways that mothers took up school-based literacy practices was most often influenced by participants' cultural values related to language and literacy and their purposes or goals for engaging in particular literacy activities. The study also found that when mothers employed out-of-school literacy practices at Nuestra Comunidad they were met with resistance due to conflicting ideologies regarding appropriate language and literacy activities and curricula. Mothers still brought in their out-of-school literacy practices in clandestine manners or had to modify their practices. When focusing on marginalized groups, traditional family literacy research has either a) privileged school-based literacy practices and their replication in the home setting; or b) emphasized the cultural and linguistic wealth of marginalized families' home literacy practices but highlighted the differences between these practices and those employed and valued in school (Auerbach, 1989; Gadsden, 1998, 2001). This study looks beyond the simple replication of literacy practices from school to home and vice versa. Rather, this research provides insight into the rich literacy practices that Latino families engage in throughout the many contexts of their lives by highlighting the complex ways in which literacy practices move across spaces.

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