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Genres, Contexts, and Literacy Practices: Literacy Brokering Among Sudanese Refugee Families

Kristen H. Perry
Reading Research Quarterly
Vol. 44, No. 3 (July/August/September 2009), pp. 256-276
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the International Literacy Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25655455
Page Count: 21
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Genres, Contexts, and Literacy Practices: Literacy Brokering Among Sudanese Refugee Families
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Abstract

This ethnographic study examined literacy brokering among Sudanese refugee families in Michigan. Literacy brokering occurs as individuals seek informal help with unfamiliar texts and literacy practices. Data collection involved participant observation, semistructured interviews, and collection of artifacts over 18 months. Researcher analysis of data identified patterns through coding and theme analysis, using the literacy brokering event as the unit of analysis. Three Southern Sudanese refugee families participated in the study, including four focal children (two boys and two girls) in kindergarten and first grade. Challenging current notions of brokering, results show that brokering was not merely a matter of translation and that issues of genre also were important. Most brokering events provided knowledge about the purposes for, uses of, and textual features of specific written genres. Together, these types of brokering contributed to Sudanese participants' understandings of texts, genres, and, most importantly, literacy practices in their new U.S. context. Many people acted as brokers for the refugees, including their own young children, who were just emerging into English literacy themselves. Literacy brokering allowed these children to help their parents as they simultaneously gained important literacy knowledge and skills themselves. These results add to existing knowledge about the construct of literacy brokering, the nature of literacy practices, and issues of family literacy.

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