Teresa Prendergast, Ph.D.


Mapping the Early Literacy Ecology of Children with Disabilities in their Homes and Communities: Perspectives from Parents and Children’s Librarians

While prior research has investigated the home and preschool literacy experiences of young children with significant disabilities (Craig, 1996; DesJardin, 2010; Flewitt, Nind, & Payler, 2009; Hadadian & Weikle, 2003; Marvin & Mirenda, 1993; Ricci, 2011), little is known about how families of children with disabilities interpret mainstream early literacy discourses, most of which presume normative child development, nor how they participate in community-based early literacy learning. While the work of children’s librarians has evolved to include a significant role in the early literacy movement (American Library Association, 2011; Ward, 2007), librarians’ impact on the early literacy experiences of children with disabilities remains largely unexplored. This critical study begins with an analysis of early literacy discourse (McTavish, 2012; Nichols, Nixon, & Rowsell, 2009; Smythe & Toohey, 2009) found in government, community and commercial spaces (including virtual spaces, i.e., websites) in a large urban community in British Columbia, Canada. The study then explores the perspectives of parents of children with disabilities as they consider how their children participate in early literacy experiences in the context of their daily lives and routines. The study concludes with an exploration of children’s librarians’ perspectives on providing early literacy programs and resources for young children with disabilities and their families, while parents share their experiences in public libraries with their children with disabilities. The purpose of this study was to explore how early literacy is supported by communities in the lives of families whose children have disabilities. The conclusion was that children with disabilities are under-represented in early literacy discourse and practice, and that enduring ableist practices may result in the exclusion of children from early literacy opportunities in their communities.

American Library Association. (2011). Every Child Ready to Read: Teaching parents and caregivers how to support early literacy development.   Retrieved January 11, 2013 from http://everychildreadytoread.org/

Craig, C. J. (1996). Family support of the emergent literacy of children with visual impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 90(3), 194-200.

DesJardin, J. L. (2010). The importance of the home literacy environment for developing literacy skills in young children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Young Exceptional Children, 13(5), 28-44. doi:10.1177/1096250610387270

Flewitt, R., Nind, M., & Payler, J. (2009). ‘If she’s left with books she’ll just eat them’: Considering inclusive multimodal literacy practices. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 9(2), 211-233. doi:10.1177/1468798409105587

Hadadian, A., & Weikle, B. (2003). Emergent literacy practices among parents of preschool children with & without disabilities. International Journal of Special Education, 18(1), 80.

Marvin, C., & Mirenda, P. (1993). Home literacy experiences of preschoolers enrolled in Head Start and special educaiton programs. Journal of Early Intervention, 17(4), 351-367.

McTavish, M. (2012). Troubling Government Discourse on Early Learning Websites: A Critical Analysis. Canadian Children, 37(2), 5.

Nichols, S., Nixon, H., & Rowsell, J. (2009). The “good” parent in relation to early childhood literacy: Symbolic terrain and lived practice. Literacy, 43(2), 65-74. doi:10.1111/j.1741-4369.2009.00519.x

Ricci, L. (2011). Home literacy environments, interest in reading and emergent literacy skills of children with Down syndrome versus typical children. Journal of intellectual disability research : JIDR, 55(6), 596-609. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2011.01415.x

Smythe, S., & Toohey, K. (2009). Investigating sociohistorical contexts and practices through a community scan: a Canadian Punjabi-Sikh example. Language and Education, 23(1), 37-57. doi:10.1080/09500780802152887

Ward, C. (2007). Libraries as 21st-Century learning places. Language Arts, 84(3), 269. Retrieved December 3, 2013, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41962191

Supervisory committee
Dr. Jim Anderson (LLED), Dr. Pat Mirenda (ECPS), Dr. Suzanne Smythe (SFU)
Examining Committee
External Examiner:  Dr. Denice Adkins (University of Missouri)
University examiners: Dr. Margot Filipenko (LLED), Dr. Janet Jamieson (ECPS)