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The Laundromat as the Transnational Local: Young Children’s Literacies of Interdependence


by María Paula Ghiso — 2016

Background: The learning of students from (im)migrant backgrounds has long been a consideration for the field of education. The “transnational” turn in research has brought to the forefront the need to account for students’ language and literacy practices as situated within multiple national affiliations, fluid migration histories, global technological networks, and plural identities. Understanding the global/local dynamics of young children’s literacies across contexts can help us consider how the literacy curriculum specifically, and educational institutions more broadly, may be reimagined to be more attuned to their transnational experiences.

Focus: Informed by Chicana and transnational feminist theories, this study examines how first grade Latina/o emergent bilinguals interacted with a literacy curriculum that sought to value their transnational experiences and multilingual repertoires, specifically by integrating photography and writing as a platform for children to inquire into community experiences they identified as salient. The curricular invitations were designed as a Third Space (Bhabha, 2004, Gutiérrez, 2008) that unsettled the often-reified boundaries between what counts as academic literacy learning in school and the practices and experiences of Latina/o children in out-of-school contexts.

Research Design: A total of 103 six- and seven-year-olds over the two years participated in this ethnographic (Heath & Street, 2008) and practitioner research (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009) study. One hundred and one identified as Latina/o, and all qualified for free and reduced lunch. Data sources (children’s writings and photographs; audio recordings; interviews with the teachers and children; researcher reflective memos; and fieldnotes of participant observation in the school and community) were coded using thematic and visual analysis, with attention to how specific textual or discursive features functioned socioculturally.

Findings/Conclusions: I focus on one of the prominent themes in the data—the community space of the Laundromat—to discuss how the children participated in literacies of interdependence that linked individual flourishing with community wellbeing through their care work in supporting their families. I use the term literacies of interdependence to refer to young children’s multilingual and multimodal literacy practices that both reflected and enacted their cultural practices of mutuality. Through transactions with neighborhood spaces as texts, the children surfaced multiple and contrasting narratives of immigration and inquired into their transnational identities. Findings from this study point to how researchers and educators may be more attentive to Latina/o children’s values and practices of interdependence and understand the “transnational local” as embodied in concrete spaces within their lived experiences.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 118 Number 1, 2016, p. 1-46
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18240, Date Accessed: 8/17/2017 1:49:31 AM

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About the Author
  • María Paula Ghiso
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    MARÍA PAULA GHISO is an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research focuses on early childhood literacies and multilingual populations, and draws on theories of coloniality and identity to investigate how community-based epistemologies can be honored and mobilized in the literacy curriculum. Recent work includes: Ghiso, M. P. (in press). Arguing from experience: Young children’s embodied knowledge and writing as inquiry. Journal of Literacy Research. Ghiso, M. P., & Campano, G. (2013). Coloniality and education: Negotiating discourses of immigration in school and communities through border thinking. Equity and Excellence in Education, 46(2), 252–269.
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