Cultural Practices of Literacy: A Case of Costa Rica

Principal Investigator:
Canada Research Chair in Early Childhood Literacy
University of British Columbia

In cooperation with officials from the Ministry of Public Education in Costa Rica, I began a 6-month ethnography in Costa Rica, seeking to explore factors that may account for many of the difficulties that are experienced by poor and marginalized children in the Costa Rican Schools, particularly those of Nicaraguan immigrants. I focused exclusively on the early literacy learning of the children primarily because high rates of first-grade retention is considered to be a problem in the schools and because the success in first stages of learning to read and write determines the level of success at learning in other subjects and in the later grades.

Within this, I explored interactions between the children's experiences with reading and writing in their lives outside of school - in their homes and communities - and those within their classrooms. I focused on home-school interactions because much previous research documents that the degree to which parents read and write in the homes is the major determinant of the degree to which children are successful learning to read and write in school. However, if children do not learn to read and write in school using real-life (or 'authentic') texts and purposes for reading and writing them, they are less successful at learning as compared to those who do.

My research questions for this study: What are the literacy practices of the case-study community and of the school attended by the young children in the community. How are the literacy practices of the community and school similar or different? One of the major intents of this study is to work with MEP officials to explore new ways of designing and delivering instruction in literacy during the early grades. Therefore, my classrooms observations and my interviews with parents and teachers are also being analyzed to arrive at implications for such instruction.


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