How do families who are involved in a homelessness-avoidance housing program promote a love for literacy in their children? How does school impact the families’ beliefs and practices about literacy?


Summer 8-12-2015



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Barbara Swanson

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Jan Turbill

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Sarah Ousdigian


This dissertation seeks to answer two questions: How do families living in a homelessness avoidance housing community inspire a love for literacy in their children and how does school impact their beliefs and values? Qualitative, phenomenological methods were used to conduct interviews of five mothers who were living in a transitional housing community for homeless families. The interview was developed using Edwards et. al.’s (1999) Parent Story Interview and included three lines of inquiry: the family’s literacy history; the family’s language interactions during daily routines; and the family’s perceptions about their children’s learning at home and at school. Cambourne's Conditions of Learning (COL) and an interviewee trait framework were used to analyze the data. A broad definition of family literacy practices was actively employed throughout all phases of the study. Culturally, socially, economically and linguistically inclusive literacy practices were recognized in the data. The mothers’ interviews were reported as descriptive stories. Interpretive analyses were provided connecting the mothers’ experiences back to the literature review. Each mother’s interview was analyzed for evidence of Cambourne’s COL (1988). Other patterns in the data were captured in an Interviewee Trait Framework. All mothers described interactions with their children and home environments which fulfilled all of Cambourne’s COL (1988). Despite the mothers’ difficult educational experiences, all had high educational aspirations for themselves and their children. Results suggest that educational institutions must redefine parent involvement to encompass a broad definition of behaviors and activities that support literacy development. Book reading and alphabet teaching will always be important to literacy development but they are not the only way children develop literacy. Future research will focus on how educational institutions can avoid a deficit ideology and instead honor the rich teaching happening in all families.


Early Childhood, Literacy, Parent Involvement, Reading

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