Academic journal article Language Arts

Nurturing Young Children's Biliteracy Development: A Korean Family's Hybrid Literacy Practices at Home

Academic journal article Language Arts

Nurturing Young Children's Biliteracy Development: A Korean Family's Hybrid Literacy Practices at Home

Article excerpt

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Yoomin (all names are pseudonyms) is a seven-year-old Korean bilingual girl in the second grade. Every Friday evening, Yoomin's family video-chats with her grandparents who live in Korea, usually gathering in front of the screen to say hello and then moving around freely as they talk. Today, only Yoomin and her father, Mr. Yi, video-chat with her grandmother while her mother and younger brothers are finishing their meals. While they are conversing, Yoomin takes out a Korean hymnbook from the cabinet and asks her father to look for the hymn that her family sang together the last time they talked. The example that follows below features the conversation that ensued after Mr. Yi found the hymn and handed the book to Yoomin.

grandmother: ... [Yoomin, what are you doing?]

Mr. Yi: ... . [She is looking up a hymn in the hymnbook.]

grandmother: ... [What are you doing with the hymnbook?]

Yoomin: ... . [Grandma, let's sing. You sing a song.]

grandmother: (She flips through the pages of her hymnbook.) ... [Which one?] ... ["Silent Night, Holy Night?" Do you like to sing this one?]

(Yoomin flips pages to look for the song that her grandmother suggested.)

grandmother: ... [One hundred and nine], one-oh-nine.

Yoomin: ... . [I found it.]

grandmother: Silent night, holy night . . . (Grandmother starts singing in English.)

Mr. Yi: ... . [Mother, we have a Korean version.]

grandmother: ... . [You do? Yoomin, let's sing it together.]

Yoomin: ... . [No. Grandma, you sing it.]

Mr. Yi: ... . [You can't say no to your grandmother.]

(Grandmother starts singing "Silent Night, Holy Night" in Korean, and Yoomin joins her grandmother in singing.)

This exchange shows an example of how one Korean bilingual child engaged in an activity in which her family members used their two languages to interact with each other around a text written in Korean. This particular literacy event is noteworthy in relation to Yoomin's biliteracy development for several reasons. First, singing a hymn in Korean as a choral reading allowed Grandmother, a more fluent reader in Korean, to take the lead so that Yoomin, an emerging reader in Korean, could follow along as her grandmother sang. Second, Yoomin's grandmother provided a page number in English that served as a scaffold for Yoomin to help her find the song in the book. Furthermore, the grandmother's singing in English seemed to demonstrate to Yoomin how a text can be written in English and Korean and how meaning can be shared across two languages. Communicating in their heritage language while sharing a song seemed to strengthen the family's unity. Finally, Yoomin's father reminded Yoomin of how to interact with her grandmother. Although the father's comment was nothing more than about saying no, he implied cultural ways of being polite to adults. By using digital technology, the family extended available opportunities to communicate in the heritage language.

Theoretical Perspectives

Bilingual Children and Subtractive Schooling Experiences

The growing number of bilingual individuals in US schools has encouraged educators to pay more attention to how they might better support bilingual children's academic performance. The research on multicultural and multilingual families and children has repeatedly reported that families strongly expect their children both to develop socially recognized linguistic competencies and strategies and to learn their heritage language and cultural ways of interacting (e.g., Lee, 2013; Lee & Shin, 2008). Educational policy that emphasizes improving bilingual children's English only, however, creates a subtractive learning environment that marginalizes bilingual children's linguistic and cultural resources and their ability to exploit these resources for their meaning making and learning.

The subtractive nature of schooling puts bilingual children at risk of a) losing their interest in and agency for learning their heritage language, b) diminishing the possibility of becoming biliterate, and c) disparaging their linguistic and cultural knowledge and resources (Lee & Suarez, 2009). …

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