A Multiple Case Study of Early Language and Literacy Practices in Black Middle-Class Families in the Southeastern United States: Implications of Race and Class Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Addy, Naa Dede
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • Early literacy experiences, prior to formal school entry, impact children’s academic success (Bradley, Corwyn, McAddo, & García Coll, 2001; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). However, much of this early literacy research has been based on the experiences of white, middle class families. Current understandings of early literacy practices in black families are based primarily on research limited to working-class and poor communities. This project highlights literacy practices in the black middle-class families that have been largely overlooked in the literature. Using a sociocultural definition of literacy based on New Literacy Studies (Gee, 1999; Street, 1995) and an ethnographic multiple case study design, this project examines the language and literacy practices of black middle class parents and their four-year-old children who live in the southeastern United States. Findings of this qualitative study demonstrate that these families are engaged in a number of oral, print, and digitally-based literacy practices that are highly similar to the practices reported in white middle class families. However, these black middle class families also engage in oral literacy traditions that potentially differentiate them from their white middle class counterparts. Furthermore, the financial resources and social capital associated with middle class status provide these families with a wealth of material objects and opportunities from which to choose. However, patterns of racial segregation and discrimination force these families to negotiate both black and white language and literate traditions. In short, class-based factors provide increased access and choice for these families when it comes to literacy and language practices, while racial factors also impose particular choices upon these black middle class families. These findings serve as a reminder that educational professionals and scholars must address intersecting variables of race and class in both theoretical models and instructional settings. Perspectives shaped by race or class alone will necessarily fall short of explaining the full range of practices in which these families engage. Furthermore, there must be an appreciation for the role that immediate social and material contexts play in shaping literacy practices.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Noblit, George
  • Griffin, Dana
  • Glazier, Jocelyn
  • Tyson, Karolyn
  • Wolfram, Walt
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2018

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