Year

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Education

Abstract

Successful transition to school has been found to be a key factor in later school success. Despite this, there have been few studies conducted which explore the lived experiences of children and their families in this critical period, and fewer that have focused on emergent bilingual children in an English-medium context.

This inquiry aimed to reveal the lived experiences of three emergent bilingual children and their families as they made the transition to school, with particular reference to their home literate practice and preparation for school. This study focused on the ways the child-participants negotiated their language and literacy capital from the home context, as well as their identities as learners, in the classroom with peers and teachers.

This qualitative study is informed by a Symbolic Interactionist framework. Symbolic Interactionism centres on meaning making as a social co-construction (Reynolds & Herman-Kinney, 2003). Pivotal to this framework is the notion of negotiation of identity (Denzin, 1989).

Using a Narrative Inquiry design, data were drawn from family conversations with the child-participants and their families; interviews with each child’s teacher; classroom observations conducted over the first term of Kindergarten (the first year of compulsory schooling in New South Wales, Australia); artefacts gathered from the homes and classrooms; and reflexive researcher journaling. In order to bring together the many parts of this mosaic, that is each narrative, a number of lenses were employed to view the collected data. These lenses were critical, allowing the ‘voices, feelings, actions and meanings of interacting individuals’ to be heard (Denzin, 1989, 83). The three narratives presented are restoried from the view point of the home, the parents and the children. Other voices are also heard, significantly, the teachers’. Opening up the home lived experience of bilingual families provides insight into the literate activity and preparations for school that these families made, families who are traditionally labelled as outside the mainstream. The findings of this thesis explore the connections between the home and school settings as the participating children and their families made this crucial transition. They have highlighted disconnections despite the determination of the children and families and the good will of the teachers.

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