“Well, That Just Comes with Being a Mama”: The Gendered Nature of Family Literacy Programs

  • Jessica RizkEmail author


Drawing on ethnographic research, this paper investigates the gendered involvement in early literacy programs at one central library in the Greater Toronto Area. This study consisted of observations and field notes across family literacy programs, along with in-depth interviews with librarians and mother attendees. In particular, this research explores the invisible labour of mother involvement in “family” literacy programs targeting children aged 0–8, along with the role of librarians in structuring such early literacy programs. Referring largely to Griffith and Smith’s (Mothering for schooling, RoutledgeFalmer, New York, 2005) notion of the mothering discourse, this study suggests that there are specific kinds of early literacy work that are deemed “appropriate” and “valued” (i.e., taking trips to the library; being read to daily, turning everyday domestic labour into teachable moments), and certain individuals (i.e., moms) who are assumed or expected to carry out such work at home. This study also reveals that both mothers and librarians continue to participate in dominant discourses of mothering, specifically in relation to early literacy work assumed to prepare children for schooling. Such findings have implications for future research that considers mothering work and early resource supports for families.


Early literacy Gender Mothering discourses Family literacy 



The funding was supported by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Grant no. 766-2012-4247-A28).


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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