Early reading acquisition: Perceptions and interactions of Haitian American, Jamaican American, and Cuban American families

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Liz Rothlein - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Shawn Post - Committee Member


The purpose of this study was to describe and compare family support of their children's early reading acquisition across three ethno-cultural groups. A collective case study design was utilized for this part descriptive and part exploratory qualitative study to describe families' perceptions and interactions during joint reading tasks. This investigation included the perspective of participants of three relatively populous low-income ethno-cultural groups in South Florida: Haitian American, Jamaican American, and Cuban American.Eleven case studies comprised of four families of two of the ethno-cultural groups (Haitian America and Cuban America) and three of one group (Jamaican American) was conducted. Multiple cases allowed for the analysis of commonalties within ethno-cultural groups and the observation of patterns between groups. All family members who reported to regularly help their first grade child with reading tasks were invited to participate. Multiple modes of data collection including interviews, observations, and photography were utilized. Teachers were interviewed as to the reading instructional style they utilized in their classroom. The researcher and her assistants collected data at each family's home on two occasions. A coding procedure was used to analyze data then themes were identified.This study revealed that participants provided their children with frequent joint storybook reading and homework help. They also evidenced literacy rich home environments. Families had positive perceptions of their child's school, did not ask open ended questions or discuss text, and tended to have the child read to them rather than them reading to the child. Groups differed as to instructional styles including the use of visuals, turn taking, and word identification strategies. Frequency of engagement in joint reading activities was heavily influenced by time and parents' level of education. Time was mediated by the number of children in the home and whether the mother was employed. When parents' education level was low, siblings were found to have embraced the role of home educator.These results inform the cultural discontinuity theories of minority underachievement, revealing the degree to which low-income minority beliefs and practices are in conflict with those of the majority culture. Recommendations include adjusting teacher education and family literacy programs to be more culturally relevant in accordance with culture-based findings.


Education, Early Childhood; Education, Elementary; Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

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