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Voices of Refugee Mothers: Navigating the Complexities of Supporting their Preschool Children’s Literacy Development


The process of guiding young children to learn to read and write may hold unique challenges for refugee families who are transitioning to a new culture and a new language, yet areas of strength and resourcefulness may lead to successful literacy readiness for these young learners. This qualitative descriptive study examined refugee mothers’ (N = 9) literacy practices with their preschool aged children (3–5 years). The study goals were first, to explore the literacy practices among refugee families and their children, and secondly, to understand how these families navigated their new environments as they prepared their young children for school. Qualitative data collected via interviews indicated that the literacy practices of families varied and were mainly focused on storytelling and writing activities. The findings also suggested that mothers face challenges in promoting literacy due to lack of literacy resources. However, all the mothers highlighted that learning to read, write, and speak English were top priorities for their young children before starting school. Implications on effective strategies for supporting literacy development among refugee families with young children are discussed.

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Correspondence to Rachel J. Boit.

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Boit, R.J., Barnes, A.C., Conlin, D. et al. Voices of Refugee Mothers: Navigating the Complexities of Supporting their Preschool Children’s Literacy Development. Early Childhood Educ J 48, 683–691 (2020).

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  • Refugee
  • Early literacy
  • Literacy practices
  • Families
  • Multi/bilingual