HomeThe Asia-Pacific Education Researchervol. 20 no. 1 (2011)

Active Agents: The New-Immigrant Mothers’ Figured Worlds of Home Literacy Practices for Young Children in Taiwan

Ching-ting Hsin

Discipline: Education



New-immigrant families in which one spouse (almost always the mother) is a foreigner (i.e., not Taiwanese) are stigmatized in Taiwan. Immigrant mothers are popularly viewed as being culturally deficient and without the knowledge needed to teach children literacy. Multiple-case studies have been adopted to study this situation. Thirteen Vietnamese mothers with children aged 4–6 years are recruited in a study designed to deepen the understanding of how mothers construct home literacy environments for their children. The researcher uses the notion of the figured world (Holland et al., 1998) to explore the mothers’ beliefs, values, and expectations about literacy learning. An important conclusion is that immigrant mothers are active agents who value their children’s learning of literacy, develop social networks, incorporate different resources, and use strategies in bicultural contexts to foster their children’s literacy. Tension occurs when the figured worlds of mothers related to literacy intersect with the figured worlds of teachers’. Although teachers have more power in the existing social hierarchy than mothers, mothers have agency and the potential to empower themselves and other immigrant women. This study sheds light on the understanding of literacy environments of new-immigrant families and active roles of new-immigrant mothers. This study will hopefully help teachers to have a better understanding of these families and change teachers’ perceptions and attitudes towards them. The understanding will also inform teachers’ practices and encourage them to incorporate the resources of these families into literacy curricula.