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Auteur: Anat STAVANS

Allowing for Bi-Literacy Patterns in Ethiopian Immigrant Families in Israel: A Socio-Educational Challenge

Abstract/Résumé: The present study describes factors affecting the home and school literacy patterns in parent-child interaction in the homes of 60 Ethiopian immigrant families in Israel. Parents were asked to complete a questionnaire evaluating their child’s development, literacy, schooling, and language proficiency (L1 and L2). To assess extended discourse practices which are considered to predict language and literacy development in children, parents were also asked to perform four different extended discourse tasks. The results indicate that while non-Ethiopian and Ethiopian parents seek the same future for their child there are significant differences in the means to bridge between home and school literacy patterns. Generally speaking, Ethiopian immigrant parents engage in their child’s educational and social life until the child reaches first grade. Once schooling begins, these parents disengage from the child’s educational needs and the generational worlds begin to part. Such disengagement is often accompanied by relinquishing the maintenance of the first language, its culture and traditions in favors of a yet inappropriate second language devoid of ethnic or cultural values to be acquired. We contend that mutual respect and interaction between the two literacy traditions could enhance both child’s and parent’s literacy enhancement and development. This contention will be illustrated by two extended discourse tasks (a narrative and a description) performed by the parents. The findings indicate that these parents have preferences for certain extended discourses, and that the form and function of these preferred discourses coincide with those needed for better scholastic literacy. Ethiopian parents prefer oral not written discourse as the anchor for their literacy-driven parent-child interaction. They resort to descriptions and folk narratives coinciding with expected vocabulary use and the cannons of narrative syntax in their native language and culture. We stress the need for the institutionalized language education policy to make the ‘cultural and linguistic affordances’ for these families’ language policy in creating a legitimate space for both literacy traditions so as to ease the co-construction of a unique bilingual and bicultural home - school literacy.