Exploring the home literacy beliefs of parents with young children in New Zealand.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Research has shown that parents make important contributions to their children’s English literacy acquisition and that there are cultural differences in how parents approach this task. Increased immigration has contributed to a diverse society in New Zealand, with a quarter of the population foreign born, yet very little quantitative research on New Zealand parents’ home literacy beliefs (PHLBs) is available. Improving our understanding of PHLBs will assist teachers and other stakeholders to support parents of young readers, especially parents who may not speak English as their mother tongue. PHLBs have been characterized in past research as skill-based, entertainment based or an approach which may include elements of both.
The aim of this study was to explore and develop our understanding of New Zealand PHLBs. Participants in this study were 300 parents of children under the age of seven. They were the parent in the family who spends the most time with their child to promote their English literacy skills. An online questionnaire based on Anderson’s (1995) Parents’ Perceptions of Literacy Learning Interview Schedule was used to collect data. Demographic information and responses to 33 Likert-scale items related to literacy acquisition were used in quantitative data analysis. Composite high scores on the scale indicated that PHLBs aligned with an emergent approach to literacy acquisition in which fun and entertainment considerations were central. Low scores were congruent with a skills-based perspective in which parents preferred didactic teaching techniques.
Nine independent variables were used in the analyses: parent level of education, household income, parent gender and age, main home language, immigration status, how long the parent has been helping the child and the children’s gender and age. Relations between the demographic variables and parents’ composite score were analysed in a correlation matrix. The predictive capacity of the variables were analysed in a hierarchical multiple regression. Analyses of variance were performed to investigate group differences in terms of language and immigrant background on measures derived from the questionnaire, including factors obtained from Factor Analyses of the current data.
The most significant predictors of parents’ beliefs were their main home language (L1), how long they have been helping their child and their immigration status, which support the social nature of children’s literacy acquisition within the home environment. Significant differences existed in the beliefs of parents who speak English L1, including immigrants who speak English L1, and those who speak other languages as L1. There were also significant differences in the beliefs of participants who were born in New Zealand and immigrants, as well as between parents who have been helping their children for short periods of time versus long timeframes. Consistent with previous research, there was a large amount of variability in home literacy beliefs across parents; however, in the two new factors established from the current research, variance focused more on a ‘Parent-as-Teacher’ factor and there was much less variance in a ‘Parent-as-Model’ factor. These new factors will be discussed along with previous conceptualisations of parent/home literacy influences.