“You Guys Should Offer the Program more Often!”: Some Perspectives from Working Alongside Immigrant and Refugee Families in a Bilingual Family Literacy Program

  • Jim AndersonEmail author
  • Ann Anderson
  • Nicola Friedrich
  • Laura Teichert
Part of the International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development book series (CHILD, volume 17)


In this chapter, we report on a bilingual family literacy program with 500 immigrant and refugee families of 3 to 5-year old preschool children from four different linguistic groups in the Greater Vancouver Area of British Columbia, Canada. We situate the work in socio-historical theory and draw on notions of intersubjectivity or shared understanding and additive bilingualism - the concept that there are benefits in maintaining one’s first or home language while acquiring a second or additional languages. Drawing on an analysis of focus group sessions, the Parents’ Perceptions of Literacy Learning Interview Schedule (Anderson, 1995), and field notes, we report on families’ perceptions of the benefits of the program, concerns and issues they raised, and changes in their perspectives of literacy learning over the course of the project.


  1. Anderson, J. (1995). Listening to parents’ voices: Cross cultural perceptions of learning to read and to write. Reading Horizons, 35, 394–413.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, J., Anderson, A., & Morrison, F. (2012). Working in diverse communities: A social capital perspective of family literacy programs. In B. W. Toso (Ed.), Proceedings of the 2012 national conference on family literacy research strand (pp. 7–17). University Park, PA: The Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, J., Friedrich, N., & Kim, J. (2011). Implementing a bilingual family literacy program with immigrant and refugee families: The case of Parents As Literacy Supporters (PALS). Vancouver, BC: Decoda Literacy Solutions. Available at
  4. Anderson, J., & Gunderson, L. (1997). Literacy learning from a multicultural perspective. The Reading Teacher, 50, 514–516.Google Scholar
  5. Anderson, J., Purcell-Gates, V., Jang, K., & Gagne, M. (2010). Implementing an intergenerational literacy program with authentic literacy instruction: Challenges, responses, and results. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Council on Learning.Google Scholar
  6. Anderson, J., Smythe, S., & Shapiro, J. (2005). Working with families, communities and schools: A critical case study. In J. Anderson, M. Kendrick, T. Rogers, & S. Smythe (Eds.), Portraits of literacy across families, communities and schools: Intersections and tensions (pp. 63–85). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  7. Anderson, J., Streelasky, J., & Anderson, T. (2007). Representing and promoting family literacy on the WWW: A critical analysis. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 53, 143–156.Google Scholar
  8. Auerbach, E. R. (1989). Toward a social-contextual approach to family literacy. Harvard Educational Review, 59, 165–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bauer, E., & Guerrero, B. (2016). Young children’s emerging identities as bilingual and biliterate students. In A. Anderson, J. Anderson, J. Hare, & M. McTavish (Eds.), Language, learning and culture in early childhood: Home, school and community contexts (pp. 19–49). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Boyce, L. K., Innocenti, M. S., Roggman, L. A., Norman, V. K. J., & Ortiz, E. (2010). Telling stories and making books: Evidence for an intervention to help parents in migrant Head Start families support their children’s language and literacy. Early Education & Development, 21(3), 343–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brooks, G., Pahl, K., Pollard, A., & Rees, F. (2008). Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy: A review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally. Reading, UK: CfBT Education Trust.Google Scholar
  12. Castro, D. C., Páez, M. M., Dickinson, D. K., & Frede, E. (2011). Promoting language and literacy in young dual language learners: Research, practice, and policy. Child Development Perspectives, 5(1), 15–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clay, M. (1993). Always a learner: A fable. Reading Today, 3, 10.Google Scholar
  14. Crossley, N. (1996). Intersubjectvity: The fabric of social becoming. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Cummins, J. (1983). The role of primary language development in promoting educational success for language minority students. In C. F. Leyba (Ed.), Schooling and language minority students: A theoretical framework (pp. 3–49). Los Angeles: National Dissemination and Assessment Center.Google Scholar
  16. Cummins, J., Chow, P., & Schecter, S. R. (2006). Community as curriculum. Language Arts, 83, 297–307.Google Scholar
  17. Duranti, A. (2010). Husserl, subjectivity and anthropology. Anthropological Theroy, 10(1), 1–20.Google Scholar
  18. Glaser, B. G., & Stauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago, IL: Aldine.Google Scholar
  19. Gregory, E. (2005). Guiding lights: Siblings as literacy teachers in a multicultural society. In J. Anderson, M. Kendrick, T. Rogers, & S. Smythe (Eds.), Portraits of literacy across families, communities and schools: Intersections and tensions (pp. 21–40). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  20. Grimm, P. (2010). Social desirability bias. Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing. 2. Google Scholar
  21. Hannon, P. (2010, July). Cultivating the research-practice connection. Keynote address presented at the Cultivating connections: Global perspectives and practices family literacy conference, Edmonton, AB.Google Scholar
  22. Hirst, K., Hannon, P., & Nutbrown, C. (2010). Effects of preschool bilingual family literacy programme. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 10, 183–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kenner, C. (2004). Becoming biliterate: Young children learning different writing systems. Stoke on Trent, UK: Trentham Books.Google Scholar
  24. Li, G. (2003). Literacy, culture and the politics of schooling: Counter-narratives of a Chinese-Canadian family. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 34(2), 184–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. National Early Literacy Panel. (2008). Developing early literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy. Available at
  26. Nederhof, A. J. (1985). Methods of coping with social desirability bias: A review. European Journal of Social Psychology, 15, 263–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nutbrown, C., Hannon, P., & Morgan, A. (2005). Early literacy work with families: Policy, practice and research. London: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  28. Pahl, K., & Kelly, S. (2005). Family literacy as third space between home and school: Some case studies of practice. Literacy, 39, 91–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pellegrini, A. (2009). The role of play in human development. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pellegrini, A. D., & Galda, L. (1993). Ten years after: A reexamination of symbolic play and literacy research. Reading Research Quarterly, 28, 163–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Phillips, L., Hayden, R., & Norris, S. (2006). Family literacy matters: A longitudinal parent–child literacy intervention study. Calgary, AB: Detslig Press.Google Scholar
  32. Province of British Columbia. (2014). Strong Start BC. Retrieved from
  33. Purcell-Gates, V. (1996). Stories, coupons and the TV Guide: Relationships between home literacy experiences and emergent literacy knowledge. Reading Research Quarterly, 31(4), 406–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Reese, E. (2012). The tyranny of storybook reading. In S. Suggate & E. Reese (Eds.), Contemporary debates in childhood education and development (pp. 59–68). Oxon, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Reese, L., & Gallimore, R. (2000). Immigrant Latinos’ cultural models of literacy development: An evolving perspective on home school discontinuities. American Journal of Education, 108(2), 103–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Reid, D., Hresko, W., & Hammill, D. (1989). Test of early reading ability-2. Austin, TX: PRO-ED, Inc.Google Scholar
  37. Reyes, L. V., & Torres, M. N. (2007). Decolonizing family literacy in a culture circle: Reinventing the family literacy educator’s role. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 7(1), 73–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rodriguez-Brown, F. (2004). Project FLAME: A parent support family literacy model. In B. Wasik (Ed.), Handbook of family literacy (pp. 213–229). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  39. Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Roskos, K., & Christie, J. (2001). Examining the play–literacy interface: A critical review and future directions. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 1(1), 59–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Swain, J., Brooks, G., & Bosley, S. (2014). The benefits of family literacy provision for parents in England. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 12(1), 77–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Taylor, D. (1983). Family literacy: Young children learning to read and write. Exeter, NH: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  43. Taylor, D., & Dorsey-Gaines, C. (1988). Growing up literate: Learning from inner-city families. Exeter, NH: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  44. Thomas, A., & Skage, S. (1998). Overview of perspectives of effective practice. In A. Thomas (Ed.), Family literacy in Canada: Profiles of effective practices (pp. 5–24). Welland, ON: Soleil Publishing.Google Scholar
  45. Toppelberg, C., & Collins, B. (2010). Language, culture and adaptation in immigrant children. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 19(4), 697–713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Wasik, B., & Van Horn, B. (2012). The role of family in society. In B. Wasik (Ed.), The handbook of family literacy (pp. 3–18). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  48. Wong-Fillmore, L. (2000). Loss of family language: Should educators be concerned? Theory Into Practice, 39(4), 203–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zhang, J., Pelletier, J., & Doyle, A. (2010). Promising effects of an intervention: Young children’s literacy gains and changes in their home literacy activities from a bilingual family literacy program in Canada. Frontiers of Education in China, 5, 409–429. doi: 10.1007/s11516-010-0108-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jim Anderson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ann Anderson
    • 2
  • Nicola Friedrich
    • 1
  • Laura Teichert
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Language and Literacy EducationUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of Curriculum and PedagogyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations