Home literacy as cultural transmission: Parent preferences for shared reading in the United Arab Emirates

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Learning, Culture and Social Interaction


© 2016 Elsevier Ltd This paper examines parents' literacy preferences for their young children as a reflection of the greater culture within a Muslim, Arab context. We describe literacy as a social practice and form of cultural transmission. Parent preferences among nationals in the United Arab Emirates (n = 118) are described across the following dimensions: children's book genre and content, and purpose of shared reading. Semi-structured interviews were analyzed based on the constant comparison data reduction method. Parents valued books that were a reflection of their culture and values. Nonfiction texts were favored due to their realistic content, which allowed parents to more easily assess a book's suitability for their child. They preferred life, earth and space science texts that teach facts and morality. Favorite folk stories included The Arabian Nights and Tales of Juha because of their entertainment value and lessons taught. The purpose of shared reading is mainly to teach isolated reading skills and develop factual knowledge, deemphasizing meaning making. Parents allowed boys to self-select reading materials more than girls. Study implications call for literacies that unite and empower rather than spark opposition from the local culture.

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Author First name, Last name, Institution

Lydia Barza, Zayed University
Antje von Suchodoletz, NYU Abu Dhabi