Early Childhood Education Journal

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 115–123 | Cite as

Linguistically Diverse Children and Educators (Re)Forming Early Literacy Policy

  • Tamara Glupczynski SpencerEmail author
  • Lorraine Falchi
  • María Paula Ghiso


The current context of increased accountability and the proliferation of skills-based literacy mandates at the early childhood level pose particular tensions for multilingual children and educators. In this article, we draw on data from two ethnographic studies to examine how educators and children negotiate the constraints of early childhood curricular mandates within two New York City schools with multilingual populations and long traditions of attending to their linguistic, cultural, and social resources. Our data documents how educators sought to understand, grapple with, and (re)form early literacy policies to make spaces for student languages, collaboration, and inquiry. We found that young children distinguished between scripted practices and authentic literacy learning, and despite constraints found openings to bend the curriculum to suit their linguistic, intellectual, and social repertoires. The studies also emphasized the role of administrators and teachers in navigating—and mitigating—curricular mandates that were often contradictory to the bilingual missions and practices of their schools and at times conflicting and confusing in and of themselves. We argue that while policy is very much a participant in today’s early literacy contexts, it is not deterministic. All members of the school community have an impact on mediating how policy is enacted and creating alternative opportunities for learning. The findings of these complementary studies illustrate how multilingual children and educators negotiated policy mandates in order to affirm the intellectual and cultural traditions of their schools.


Early childhood policy Reading Early literacy Multilingualism Urban education 



We would like to express special thanks to Gerald Campano and the Early Childhood Education Journal reviewers for providing insightful feedback on this article. We would also like to thank Jen Wrocklage and Rosanna Appio, graduate research assistants from Montclair State University, who aided in various stages of this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tamara Glupczynski Spencer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lorraine Falchi
    • 2
  • María Paula Ghiso
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Early Childhood, Elementary, and LiteracyMontclair State UniversityMontclairUSA
  2. 2.Teachers College, Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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