Occasional Paper Series #39

Building Bridges Between Home and School for Latinx Families of Preschool Children

Gigliana Melzi, Adina R. Schick, and Lauren Scarola

All children, regardless of their backgrounds, enter the classroom environment with a set of cultural and communal resources known as funds of knowledge (González, Moll, & Amanti, 2005; Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1992). Educators can support children’s learning and achievement by incorporating these funds of knowledge – which include, for example, cultural and familial values and traditions, family activities, and home language – into classroom learning experiences. All too often, however, educators fail to take advantage of these resources, and instead draw on mainstream values, traditions, and practices that have historically been embedded into classroom culture and protocol. Even the most well-intentioned intervention programs seeking to support children from ethnoculturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds typically do so by offering parents training to help adapt their home activities and practices to align with those expected by and supported in U.S. schools.

We strongly believe that for intervention efforts to be effective, they must rely on an approach that acknowledges and integrates the cultural knowledge and resources of children and their families. Building solid home-school connections requires adopting a bidirectional approach – that is, initiatives should also target the school by bringing salient home and community practices into the classroom setting. In this essay, we share findings of an intervention program we developed and implemented to help teachers incorporate Latinx children’s funds of knowledge into their everyday classroom routines. Our program trained preschool teachers to use cultural forms of oral language in the classroom as a way to support children’s reading readiness skills.

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About the Authors

Gigliana MelziGigliana Melzi is Associate Professor at Department of Applied Psychology and Affiliated Faculty at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University. Her work focuses on the intersection of cultural and linguistic practices and their relation to children’s early development and learning. In her latest work, she has developed and is assessing the efficacy of an intervention program that capitalizes on Latino families’ cultural funds of knowledge to support preschoolers’ reading readiness.

Adina SchickAdina Schick is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Applied Psychology at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Her work focuses on cultural variations in children’s language, literacy, and narrative development with a particular emphasis on the individual and combined contributions of the home and preschool contexts to the development of these school readiness skills. Most recently, her focus has been on the development and implementation of a classroom-based oral storytelling intervention that supports low-income, ethnic minority children’s reading readiness by bridging home-school practices in an authentic and meaningful manner.

Lauren ScarolaLauren Scarola serves as the Project Manager for the Latino Family Engagement and Language Development lab (L-FELD) at New York University. Currently, she coordinates the implementation of a culturally salient oral storytelling intervention in preschool classrooms across New York City. She holds a master’s degree in Human Development and Social Intervention from New York University.