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Biliteracy and bilingual development in a second-generation Korean child: a case study.
Article Type:
Report
Subject:
Bilingualism (Case studies)
Language acquisition (Case studies)
Interpersonal communication in children (Case studies)
Authors:
Ro, Yeonsun Ellie
Cheatham, Gregory A.
Pub Date:
03/22/2009
Publication:
Name: Journal of Research in Childhood Education Publisher: Association for Childhood Education International Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Association for Childhood Education International ISSN: 0256-8543
Issue:
Date: Spring, 2009 Source Volume: 23 Source Issue: 3
Geographic:
Geographic Scope: South Korea Geographic Code: 9SOUT South Korea

Accession Number:
197989598
Full Text:
Abstract. Through case study methodology, this study examined how a second-generation bilingual child developed his two languages and associated literacies, the role of the parents' and child's goals as well as the family's daily effort to attain those goals, and the influences of environmental, social, and cultural factors. Based on sociocultural theoretical frameworks, extensive qualitative data from multiple sources were collected through in-depth interviews, participant observation, document reviews, and informal/narrative assessments of the focal child's bilingual and biliteracy development over 10 months. Findings suggest that the focal child's oral home language and literacy were supported through tutoring and heritage language school attendance, the family's value on bilingualism and biliteracy, and the parents' significant financial resources. Consequently, the focal child made gains in Korean literacy. Nevertheless, this child's Korean language abilities were largely supplanted by his rapidly growing oral English language and literacy abilities, in part due to his all-English schooling. This study has implications for families, educators, and researchers who hope to support children's oral language and literacy abilities in two languages: English and their heritage language.

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It is estimated that two-thirds of the worldwide population is bilingual (Baker & Jones, 1998), indicating that bilingualism is a major linguistic and educational global phenomenon (Grosjean, 1982; Shin, 2005). In the United States, approximately 21% of school-age children (5 to 17 years old) in 2007 came from families that speak a language other than English (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). However, this number is estimated to increase to more than 40% by the year 2050 (Lindholm-Leary, 2001). The Korean population also has been increasing within the United Sates. According to U.S. Census Bureau, the Korean-origin population was 1,190,353 in 2000, while the number of newly arrived Koreans in 2005 was 903,116 (Immigration and Naturalization Service Records, 2005). Many U.S.-born children of immigrants struggle to achieve and maintain proficiency in both their heritage language and English (Shin, 2005; Tabors, 2008; Tse, 2001).

Research indicates that for many children, the preschool and elementary years are some of the most important periods for oral and literacy acquisition in two languages (e.g., Baker, 2001; Perez & Torres-Guzman, 2002). These advocates are particularly concerned with the loss of children's home languages due to a lack of support (Crawford, 2000; Tabors, 2008). Although one common option, heritage language schools, can benefit identity and home language competence (for example, for Korean children) (Pak, 2003; Shin, 2005; You, 2005), they do not provide sufficient support for home language development of bilinguals as compared to the constant exposure to English-speaking settings (Bialystok, 2001; Ramirez, 1985; You, 2005).

This study focused on one second-generation Korean student's literacy and oral language acquisition in Korean and English over a 10-month period, as part of a six-year longitudinal case study. In particular, we discuss how this Korean American child negotiated sociocultural factors impacting bilingual/biliteracy development. We first review research and theoretical perspectives relevant to literacy and oral language development of bilingual/biliterate children. Next, we present a qualitative case study. Subsequently, findings will be discussed and we make recommendations for furthering children's spoken home language and literacy and oral English language and literacy development. We will address the following research questions:

1) What are the immigrant parents' and second-generation child's linguistic goals?

2) What factors impacted this child's bilingualism and biliteracy?

3) What progress in Korean oral language and literacy did the child make during the course of this study?

Literature Review

The following are critical sociocultural factors and characteristics for bilingual children who are raised and educated in the predominant culture and language of the United States. Included are heritage language loss, aspects of bilingualism and biliteracy, home literacy events and environments, and code switching, as they are critical issues related to the study.

Heritage Language Loss

Although many immigrant parents know the importance of bilingualism and try to speak their home language(s) with their children, second-generation children tend to be at risk of losing their family's linguistic and ethnic identity. The home language is important to cultural identity for second-generation immigrants (Li, 2002), because if they lose their home language, then their heritage culture and ethnic identity may diminish when living in a second-language speaking country (Cummins, 2000; Shin, 2005). Additionally, the social and emotional connections between young immigrants and their family and community, who are interactive and supportive in many ways, may not last long enough to foster children's home cultural and linguistic identity and skills (Wong Fillmore, 1991a, 1991b). Second-generation Korean American students who were proficient in English expressed frustration with the social, emotional, cultural, and linguistic disconnect from their families (Cho & Krashen, 1998; Ro, 2008).

According to Tse (2001), second-generation immigrants may willingly lose their languages due to a strong desire for a sense of belonging to a dominant group; limited exposure to, and lack of opportunities to develop, their home language; and the power of the English language. These practical challenges are faced by many immigrant parents and their families and are difficult to counteract.

Bilingualism and Biliteracy

Bilingualism is traditionally defined as "a person's ability to process two languages" (Williams & Snipper, 1990, p. 33). We define bilinguals as people who can functionally utilize two different languages for different purposes in various situations to meet given needs by relying on developmental and social contexts (Bialystok, 2001; Garcia, 2000; Romaine, 1995)o From a sociocultural perspective, biliteracy refers to written language development in two or more languages to some degree, either simultaneously or successively (Garcia, 2000; Shin, 2005). Biliteracy development reflects both the cognitive procedures of individuals and that of the involved family, community, and society, using two written language systems (Romaine, 1995). Language proficiency in two languages refers to bilinguals' functional and communicative competence in any context in both languages (Bialystok, 2001; Grosjean, 1982).

Although bilingualism is opposed by some parents and educators, researchers indicate that being bilingual and participating in quality bilingual education programs that include effective reading and writing instruction have positive effects on children's academic, functional, social, and linguistic development (e.g., Baker, 2006; Cheatham, Santos, & Ro, 2007)--for example, the transfer of literacy skills from one language to another (Garcia, 1998, 2000). However, children's bilingual and biliteracy development in the United States can be challenging. Even in homes where parents use only their home language, the influence of English can be felt through English-language media and other popular culture (Li, 2002; Tabors & Snow, 2001). Moreover, as children increasingly engage in educational and social activities outside of their homes, English tends to be their primary language.

Given this linguistic environment within the United States, a child being raised in a bilingual home (e.g., both parents speak English and Korean) while living in an English-language community may be considered an "at-risk bilingual" (Tabors, 2008; Tabors & Snow, 2001). Because of the link between oral language development and literacy, the child also appears less likely to be biliterate. Moreover, Tabors and Snow (2001) suggest that some parents could attend to English literacy to such an extent that the child has little oral home language and literacy support at home. Tabors and Snow also indicate that in elementary school programs in which teachers and children only speak English, the child will likely develop spoken English language and literacy with little to no home language maintenance.

Home Literacy Events and Environments

Researchers emphasize the importance of social environments for bilingual children's oral language and literacy skills (Bauer, 2000; Jimenez, Garcia, & Pearson, 1995; Tabors & Snow, 2001). Accordingly, parents can purposely construct an environment to foster biliteracy and bilingualism for their children. Parent-child interactions are critical to spoken language and literacy learning. For example, parent-child conversations during meals may help develop children's language skills (Purcell-Gates, 1996; Ro, 2008) and can facilitate the development of literacy skills. Additionally, parents can generate and foster children's literacy activities at home as the continuum of learning at school (Delgado & Gaitan, 1990; Purcell-Gates, 1996), as well as increase children's motivation to read (Klesius & Griffith, 1996). This encouragement may happen through such activities as interactive storybook reading, which may also support children's receptive spoken language and print concepts (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Interactive storybook reading appears to be helpful, especially for bilingual learners who are exposed to two languages (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998; Tompkins, 2006). Children may enjoy the storyline of books either in their first language or English; additionally, bilingual children are often curious when comparing two languages in a safe atmosphere (Gregory & Williams, 2000; Ro, 2008).

Additionally, interactions with siblings can affect spoken bilingual and biliteracy proficiency. For instance, older siblings may facilitate the transfer of literacy skills that are acquired in their mainstream English school, or in the heritage language community classes, to younger siblings (Gregory & Williams, 2000). As these older children increasingly participate in visible home biliteracy experiences, both older and younger children can connect with a broad range of literacy resources at home (Obied, 2008).

Furthermore, the physical arrangement of the home environment may affect children's bilingualism. For example, Morrow and Weinstein (1986) suggest that creating a visible, accessible, and attractive library corner can benefit bilingual children. Similarly, parents in bilingual families could put out books written in the child's first language (e.g., Korean). Thus, parents' education, efforts, goals, and home environment are critical to improving children's oral bilingual and biliteracy skills.

Code Switching

Although often considered from a linguistic deficit perspective, code switching is an important characteristic of bilingual and biliterate learners and can be defined as "[alternating] between two language systems in an utterance or conversation" (Perez & Torres-Guzman, 2002, p. 52). Described as "skilled performance" (Meyers-Scotton, 1993, p. 74), code switching allows bilinguals to make linguistic choices and display their growing linguistic repertoires (Gumperz, 1982) in their two languages as they demonstrate sensitivity to social-cultural expectations and norms in particular contexts (Bauer, 2000; Nicoladis & Genesee, 1996; Perez & Torres-Guzman, 2002). Children sometimes code switch when they do not know a word in one language, when they do not find the equivalent word for direct translation, or when they use the language in which they are weaker (as cited in Bauer, Hall, & Kruth, 2002). Children can be strategic code-switchers, showing an understanding of the grammatical rules of each oral language. Thus, individuals who code-switch try to meet "the complex communicative demands of a pluralistic society" (Sridhar, 1996, p. 53). This is particularly the case for children from diverse backgrounds, who consistently use two languages in various environments (Adendorff, 1966; Chung, 2008; Li, 1994; Shin, 2002).

This literature review discussed heritage language loss, bilingualism and biliteracy, home literacy events and environments, and code switching as characteristics of bilingual children and their sociocultural environments within the United States. While research has been conducted within each of these distinct areas, few studies (e.g., Kim, 2004) have investigated the intersection of these topics for a single child through an in-depth, qualitative case study. Given the complicated nature of these topics, a comprehensive, contextual investigation can provide new insights into not only children's linguistic development but also factors that interact with and impact their bilingual oral language and literacy learning. Therefore, this study examines how a second-generation bilingual child developed two languages; the relationship between each family member's linguistic goals and the means they used to achieve those goals; the kinds of bilingual and biliteracy events that occurred in their daily lives; and the influence of environmental, social, and cultural factors on a child's oral bilingual and biliteracy development.

Methodology

Theoretical Framework

The data presented in this article are based on a 10-month period. Because this time frame was embedded within a larger six-year, longitudinal qualitative case study, the authors occasionally reference critical information occurring outside of the 10-month period. This study used qualitative case study methodology, which Stake (1995) defined as best for "naturalistic, holistic, ethnographic, biographic, and phenomenological research methods" (p. xi). In the process of data collection and analysis, this method is deliberately "empathic" and emphasizes the "uniqueness of the situation" (Stake, Bresler, & Mabry, 1991, p. 11-12). Forming fundamental relationships with participants and observing in the bilingual home situated the first author in the lived experiences of the participants and allowed for what Geertz (1973) described as "thick description."

In this ethnographic study, two theoretical frameworks contributed to the understanding of the second-generation learner's bilingual/biliteracy development as socioculturally shaped practices: Vygotsky's social-constructivism and Wenger's communities of practices. First, Vygotsky (1978) emphasized that children's learning and cognitive development is a complicated dialectical process that is embedded in daily interactions as learners are socioculturally exposed/engaged. Thus, learning and development (e.g., oral language and literacy development) are socially collaborative procedures (Bruner, 1984) that involve facilitation and interactions with family members, such as parents, siblings, and teachers. For this study, we investigated these relationships and interactions as a window to the focal child's oral language and literacy development.

Second, Wenger's (1998) theory of communities of practice was used to investigate bilingual and biliteracy practices within and across diverse communities. Bilingual children engaging in linguistic, social, and cultural contexts as immigrants have no choice but to be involved in several different communities, such as their homes, mainstream classrooms, peer groups, afterschool activities, and religious groups. As bilingual children live within and across multiple communities, they acquire linguistic proficiency (Manyak, 2001). This sociocultural theoretical framework fit into the nature of this inquiry, because we were interested in sociocultural influences and reflective discourses in bilingual and biliteracy development of second language learners within and across different social settings (e.g., family and school influences on a Korean child's Korean and English language development). Thus, sociocultural contexts are critical to an understanding of children's development and learning (Rogoff, 2003). Based on these two sociocultural theories, we investigated bilingual and biliteracy development in natural settings and explored the focal child's situated and reformulated identities as a second-generation Korean American and person of color living in the United States.

Reflexivity

As with all research, this study was inherently influenced by the two authors. Importantly, both authors value cultural and linguistic diversity and bilingualism in the United States and abroad. Both authors' gender, race, and socioeconomic class impacted this study in their choice of research topics, participants, and interpretations.

The first author, a Korean immigrant and second language learner, identified strongly with Kevin and his family and was able to tap into culturally based values and assumptions. The second author, a European American, former English as a second language teacher and school social worker who had lived in South Korea as well as the town in which this study was conducted, brought to this study knowledge of the education system and culture of the United States. Data were generated and interpreted based on their personal understandings, thoughts, and experiences. Both authors made every attempt to accurately portray the participants' interactions and perspectives.

Setting

This research was conducted in a midwestern U.S. twin-city area with an estimated population of just under a quarter of a million, nearly three-quarters of whom were white (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). There is a large university with a high percentage of Korean international students; consequently, significant support is available in the community for children to develop and maintain Korean spoken language and literacy abilities (e.g., a Korean-heritage language school, many Korean churches, and a Korean cultural center). Despite this, societal and parental pressure to learn English also was present in this research context, as is typical across the United States (Corson, 2001; Crawford, 2000; Tse, 2001; Wong Fillmore, 1991a). The neighborhood within which this family resided was considered middle- to high-income and, while a few families from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds resided there, the majority of families were white.

Participants

The children discussed in this study had been given Western names by their parents; all of the names used in this study are pseudonyms. The focal child, Kevin, was 10 years old, a 4th-grader, and attended a high-quality, all-English neighborhood public school, which was reflective of the demographics within his neighborhood. He was born in the United States and could be characterized as active, social, and outgoing. His personality appeared to help him acquire both English and Korean as a means of interacting with others. He was confident using English but had some difficulty forming grammatically correct sentences in Korean, both spoken and written.

Contacting relatives in Korea necessitated being able to communicate in Korean. Kevin used Korean when speaking on the phone and during online voice chats with his grandmother and aunts in Korea. He read Korean when he received birthday cards or letters from Korea. By contrast, Kevin needed his parents' guidance, particularly that of his mother, when writing in Korean. Kevin's two siblings, Mary (6 years old) and Cindy (4 years old), were also born in the United States. Ogbu and Simons (1998), therefore, would likely consider these three children second-generation Korean Americans.

Kevin's 37-year-old father was a doctorate-holding engineer in a multinational company. He was born in Korea and lived there for a time, lived in an English-speaking country in Asia, and lived in the United States for several years as a child. Subsequently, his family returned to Korea, where he lived until he and his wife returned to the United States for his graduate studies 10 years prior to this study. He achieved native-like English proficiency. With his diverse linguistic/cultural background and outgoing personality, Kevin's father was likely an influential person for Kevin and his two siblings.

Kevin's 36-year-old mother was a homemaker who held a bachelor's degree from what is commonly known by Koreans as a prestigious Korean university. She spoke English at a communicative level, and this ability likely originated in her middle/high school education in Korea and her own efforts after arriving in the United States. She attempted to foster her children's interest in both Korean and English with her enthusiasm and friendly personality, which helped the children have more exposure to both languages (e.g., encouraging them to watch Korean videos, and supporting their participation in a Korean heritage language school).

Prior to the beginning of this study, the family had been members of and regularly participated in Korean church activities, which allowed them to have many connections with the Korean community. The church services were conducted in Korean, although the children's Sunday school was taught through a mixture of Korean and English. Importantly, children who attended this church largely spoke to one another in English. During the 10-month period of this study, the family discontinued regular church attendance. The mother provided no specific reasons for leaving the church when asked by first author.

Given the parents' education and income levels, this family can be considered as having a high socioeconomic status. They owned a large house in an expensive neighborhood and were able to afford two cars and meet their educational and leisure expenses. In terms of linguistic and sociocultural capital/repertoires, this family was Korean-dominant in language and culture, even as they occasionally spoke English at home. Longitudinal observation allowed the first author to experience the family's gradual changes from Korean-dominant to having American/Westernized-style lives in their social, cultural, and linguistic daily lives.

Data Generation and Interpretation

Ethnographic qualitative data for this study was generated through participant observation, in-depth interviews, and written documentation of oral language and literacy behaviors. Data analysis and interpretation were based on themes that the two authors identified across observational field notes, transcripts of audiotaped interactions, interview transcripts, and writing/home literacy event samples.

Participant Observation. To learn about the process of bilingual oral language and literacy development for the focal child, the first author was a participant observer in the child's conversations and daily life, and participated in oral language and literacy events in his home. The first author's "stance" (Emerson, Fritz, & Shaw, 1995) was that of an observer, teacher, family guest, and researcher. Primarily, observations were conducted before, during, and after dinner and on weekends (e.g., playing games at home, participating in such community events as Korean festivals). Most observations were conducted in settings in which all of the family members participated. The interactions with Kevin and his siblings were audiotaped. Field notes were taken during family interactions and followed the guidelines of Bogdan and Biklen t2003). Kevin's artwork and writing samples were also collected.

In addition, the first author was a participant observer when teaching Kevin in a Korean heritage language program (focusing on Korean oral language and literacy) and tutoring (focusing primarily on Korean literacy). The Korean heritage language class met once a week for two hours; tutoring sessions occurred twice per week for one hour per session. The first author collected Kevin's work and took field notes according to Bogdan and Bicklen's (2003) guidelines on his spoken language and literacy development. She used anecdotal, qualitative, informal, narrative, and descriptive assessments while developing a language/literacy portfolio, which included responses to writing prompts, simple sentences and drawings, diary entries, essays, and Korean school homework (e.g., reading Korean picture books, practicing writing Korean words). These artifacts were assessed in a method suggested by Salinger (2001). Observation details focusing on linguistic events helped the authors develop an understanding of the atmosphere, environment, daily life, linguistic interactions, and family values on literacy development. These portfolio materials were systematically arranged by themes (e.g., Korean writing, English writing) regarding the focal child's language and literacy development over time, and were formative in nature.

Interviews. The first author conducted a semi-structured interview with Kevin's parents and with Kevin at the end of this study to understand the processes of spoken language and literacy development. Interview questions for the mother (e.g., What are your educational and career goals for your children? Why do you send Kevin to Korean language school and require him to participate in Korean tutoring? Why do you think it is worth his time to become bilingual/biliterate? When do you use Korean or English? When do you code-switch/mix? What are the difficulties/hardships of raising your children to be bilinguals/biliterates?) and for Kevin (e.g., Are you a Korean or an American or something else? How do you feel about using two languages? In what kinds of situations do you speak in English or Korean? If Korean is more difficult, why?) were developed to respond to this study's research questions. The interviews did not exceed 60 minutes in duration. Additionally, frequent casual conversations and opportunities for clarification with each participant occurred throughout the period of this study. In each case, honest and detailed responses were sought by using the language with which each participant was most comfortable; consequently, the main language for discussion with Kevin's parents was Korean, while discussions with Kevin were primarily in English.

During the parent interviews, the first author did what Wax (1960) advocated: she presented herself as a learner (as cited in Fontana & Frey, 2000), reminding the parents that she was not a parent herself but was still interested in learning about how they interact with their children regarding spoken bilingual and biliteracy development. Furthermore, being familiar with the family as a frequent guest allowed the first author to better analyze and interpret the interview data. Interviews and discussions were transcribed verbatim by the first author, who ensured accuracy for all Korean-to-English and English-to-Korean translations. Interview transcripts were analyzed following procedures discussed by Kvale (1996). First, the data were read completely to help the authors understand the overall meaning of the discussion and observation. Next, the researchers identified themes in the data to form tentative summary statements, which were altered as needed when new data were encountered. The result was mutually exclusive themes and sub-themes.

Trustworthiness

Lincoln and Guba's (1985) notion of trustworthiness was important in the data generation and interpretation procedures for this study. Due to the first author's intimate relationship with the family, frequent meetings, frequent tutoring and teaching, contact hours, and her knowledge of Korean language and culture, credible understandings and inferences were generated. Furthermore, qualitative themes were identified by the authors independently and were compared. When differences of opinion occurred, consensus was reached through further analysis and discussion. Moreover, because several data sources were generated for this study, more valid inferences were generated as the data were triangulated to form a coherent picture of Kevin's and his family's spoken language and literacy perceptions and practices.

Thus, to address our research questions regarding linguistic goals, factors impacting the focal child's bilingualism and biliteracy, and Korean oral language and literacy progress within the 10-month time frame, we implemented several data-generation procedures (i.e., participant observation, discussion, and interviews). These procedures led to the collection of significant amounts of data in portfolio materials, interactions, and perspectives of participants.

Findings

In this section, findings will be discussed to address the research questions delineated at the beginning of this article. Relevant examples, sample transcript excerpts, and brief descriptions of assessment results will be included. We discuss the results framed around two themes: the parents' values and roles as well as the child's perspective, his linguistic behavior in Korean and English, and his attitudes.

Parents' Values and Roles

From the beginning of this study, Kevin's parents were integral parts of his education and provided significant guidance towards skills they considered valuable, as indicated during observation, interview, and discussion. The importance of Korean and English oral language and literacy as well as Korean culture was demonstrated in the following excerpt, taken from an interview with Kevin's mother:

We are Korean, so we should know how to read and write Korean at the same time as English, because we are in the United States now. Although my children, all of them, were born here, we can't be the same as Americans. We are not sure we will go back to Korea or not, but we want our children to master both languages; then they can be confident in any situation in both countries.

Reflecting the parents' value on Korean as well as English spoken language and literacy, Kevin was exposed to many literacy events and experiences through abundant print resources at home. Kevin's room had a library corner, including many kinds and levels of Korean and English books. Fiction and nonfiction books of various sizes, materials, and genres were placed on bookshelves throughout the house, but especially in the biggest bookshelf in the family's den, a central family gathering place easily accessed by the children. According to the mother, Kevin demonstrated interest in books within the home, which were approximately 60% Korean and 40% English. Kevin's siblings frequently read and played with those books. Kevin's parents modeled interactions with print by frequently reading Korean and English books themselves and to the children. Moreover, reflecting their values, the parents devoted considerable financial resources to a bi-weekly Korean tutor and sending Kevin to the Korean school. The Korean school curriculum focused on Korean oral and written language (e.g., reading aloud, listening to traditional stories, Korean dictation), while the Korean tutoring program mainly focused on Korean reading and writing (e.g., reading comprehension activities and journal writing).

Unlike at home, where the parents attempted to establish a Korean-literate-rich environment, Kevin's U.S. public school was not supportive of his speaking Korean. Monthly observations of Kevin at school indicated that teachers did not encourage his Korean oral language, literacy, and cultural knowledge. When asked about this, Kevin was emphatic: "No, no, [my teacher has] never [discussed Korean language or culture]. It's an American school! It never happened, never, NEVER!" Instead, the focus was on English oral language, literacy, and American culture only (e.g., mainstream American perspectives on play, American holidays).

Kevin's all-English school environment had a profound and continual impact on his spoken language and literacy proficiencies. For instance, as his mother said about his early school career, "[Kevin] could not understand what the teacher said, so we started to mix English and Korean to help him learn English." Although this step was perhaps helpful to Kevin's transition to an all-English environment, this decision and others delineated below likely set the stage for Kevin's continual challenge to learning and maintaining Korean language and literacy.

Throughout this study, Kevin's participation in his all-English elementary school (including peer social interactions) supported his gains in English proficiency. The homework assignments from his public elementary school focused on English and did not encourage Kevin's Korean literacy and culture. As his English literacy and oral language skills increased, his English abilities rapidly surpassed his Korean abilities. Importantly, Mary, Kevin's younger sister, began preschool at the beginning of this study. As Mary's English oral language proficiency increased, Kevin began to more frequently switch from speaking Korean to English with Mary and with his parents. Because Mary was Kevin's primary play partner at home, Mary's increasing ability to interact in English had significant effects on Kevin's use of Korean. Consequently, the family slowly used less Korean at home.

The parents attempted to counteract Kevin's shift from Korean to English but not in a systematic way, such as instituting a "Korean-only rule" at home. For example, when Kevin and his siblings tried to speak only in English to the parents, they sometimes intentionally changed to speaking Korean, apparently hoping that the children would recognize why they suddenly changed the language they were speaking. In this situation, Kevin sometimes followed his parents' lead by changing from English to Korean; however, he often continued speaking English.

Additionally, Kevin's parents code-switched rather than speaking only in Korean. When Kevin did not understand a Korean word or phase, his parents often translated it to English, as Kevin's mother indicated:

When [the children] asked for explanations, sometimes they could not understand in Korean. Therefore, we explained in English first and gave another explanation in Korean.

Over time, the mother began responding to the children in short English phrases more frequently than in Korean. As seen in the transcript excerpt below, taken from a dinner table discussion, Korean was increasingly neglected, other than such simple phrases and vocabulary as "I don't know" and "July":

Kevin: What month is it? (English) Father: Can you guess? (English)

Kevin: What month is it? (English)

Father: Can you guess? (English)

Kevin: I don't know, July? (Korean) July? (English)

Mother: July (English) July, July (Korean) July (English)

Kevin: What day? Tuesday? (English)

Mother: July on Wednesday (English)

Garcia (1983) indicated that mixing languages does not necessarily lead to loss of spoken language proficiency; however, the trend towards more code-switching in this family appeared to lead to decreased Korean use at home.

Still, the parents had not given up on speaking Korean at home. They tended to speak Korean to Mary more than with Kevin. When asked why, the mother indicated that Kevin had lost some Korean literacy and oral language ability and she hoped to ensure that his younger sister, Mary, did not meet the same fate. They wanted Mary to continue developing her Korean. The parents were not applying the same strategy with Kevin, because they found it too difficult to quickly change their verbal and written communication habits, which were increasingly in English. In reality, the parents seemed to accept that Kevin was becoming more comfortable speaking English than Korean.

The parents continued to put effort into Korean spoken language and literacy development for their children; however, more practical matters tended to get in the way. To be sure, their busy daily lives and the two younger siblings who constantly needed the parents' attention played a role in the decreased emphasis on Korean at home. In the interest of meeting critical family needs, the parents sometimes pushed aside regularly interacting in Korean and supporting Korean literacy, although they continued to occasionally find teachable moments. As the mother indicated during an interview, the family's attention to Korean oral language and literacy ebbed and flowed, particularly in response to the family's busy daily lives.

Our emphasis [on Korean language and literacy] has varied time to time, even though I've always known its importance. There were times that I had to give it up and the situation made me want to let it go. You know, I'm really busy with three children. On the other hand, there are times that I really feel it's time to start again. Then I try again and again and that's been possible [with Kevin's tutoring].

Gradually, the parents displayed the viewpoint that Kevin's Korean literacy was the responsibility of his private Korean tutor and teachers at the Korean language school, due the parents' lack of available time and attention at home. Kevin's mother talked about the reasons she sought Korean tutoring support for Kevin:

I tried to teach how to read and write in Korean, but it is too difficult to sit down with [Kevin] and make [him] concentrate on studying, as the mother of[a] baby and young children.... [Tutoring] will fill up the hole of what we cannot teach them for Korean language and culture.

Thus, outside of the Korean language school and tutoring sessions, Kevin had increasingly fewer opportunities for Korean oral language and literacy development and maintenance.

The Child's Perspective, Attitude, and Linguistic Behavior

Kevin's perspectives, attitude, and behavior regarding both Korean and English changed over time. As for Korean oral proficiency, Kevin's mother indicated that early on, he used both Korean and English, but his nearly all-English environment led him increasingly to feel more comfortable with English:

Kevin liked both languages until kindergarten but started to prefer using English when he was in the 1st grade, in part due to watching television and interacting with peers. His environment is composed of English except [for] his family, but we also sometimes use English. So Kevin feels much more comfortable with and at ease with using English now.

Like his parents, during the time span of this study, Kevin indicated that Korean spoken language and literacy was important to him. His viewpoint appeared to be primarily linked to his parents' perspective, as indicated when he said, "My parents are Korean and I'm a Korean-American. And they keep telling me that I should know about Korean." Kevin asserted that Korean was much more difficult than English and showed a preference for English during discussions with the first author by responding in English to questions asked in Korean. Even if Kevin wanted to speak Korean, it seemed that there was no safe place for him to use and practice Korean for any significant amount of time, even at home.

In fact, Kevin disclosed that he often could not understand his parents when they spoke to him in Korean. He asserted that he simply wanted to speak English, which would simplify his life. He also was increasingly ashamed about his family's use of Korean. During one observation at the family's home, Kevin was playing with some native-English speaking children. When his mother instructed him in Korean to be careful as he played, Kevin expressed embarrassment and frustration that his mother sometimes spoke Korean to him and that his English-speaking peers asked him to translate her words into English.

Kevin also indicated that he could read and write and speak in both languages; nevertheless, through interview, discussion, and observation, it was obvious that Kevin believed that English oral language and literacy was far easier than Korean. For instance, although he sometimes enjoyed reading Korean books, Kevin preferred books in English when given the opportunity to choose. Moreover, Kevin increasingly showed a preference for reading simple, rather than challenging, Korean books. For example, he sometimes expressed his interest and curiosity about the content of short Korean books and the illustrations within them. He attempted to skim the front page of these short Korean books, read the titles, looked at illustrations quickly, and said, "I want to read this." On one occasion, he directly opened the cover of a new Korean book, "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" (i.e., "The Grandmother Who Passes Gas"), and started to read. He read the first sentence of the text right away, "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" (i.e., "A long, long time ago in a rural town, there was a grandmother who passed gas all the time"). However, upon looking at the thickness of this Korean book, he sighed and refused to continue. Kevin typically reacted this way when reading Korean, which was more difficult for him than reading in English. Consequently, he tended to refuse to read Korean books that were even just slightly more difficult than his current reading level. Reading in English, however was substantially less problematic, as illustrated by his high marks at school.

Similarly, Kevin's interest in Korean writing changed. Although he indicated that he "liked Korean a long time ago," he now felt more comfortable with English literacy, because "it's easier than Korean." Towards the end of this study, Kevin said,

"It is so difficult when I write [in Korean].... It's easy to write in English ... I can just write. But it is difficult when the sound and writing is different in Korean. And I don't know many words in Korean, so I have to ask [for help]."

Consequently, Kevin appeared anxious when writing essays or letters to family members in Korean; he preferred to write short dictations rather than long essays. Although Kevin complained about Korean reading and writing, throughout the time of this study, he willingly participated in bi-weekly Korean tutoring sessions and weekly Korean language school.

Nonetheless, nearly all of the environments in which Kevin found himself encouraged oral language and literacy development of English rather than Korean. As a consequence, his English oral language and literacy proficiency was increasing at a rate commensurate with that of his native-English speaking peers, according to teacher and parent reports. As for Korean, Kevin's literacy skills progressed during the 10 months of this study, due to literacy intervention through the language school and individual tutoring. In fact, based on observation and analysis, Kevin improved from an early beginning reader to an advanced beginning reader, according to Salinger's (2001) scale of early literacy development. Thus, Kevin made substantial improvements in Korean reading during this case study.

For example, Kevin exhibited improvement in phonemic awareness, letter-sound correspondence, alphabetic knowledge, vocabulary knowledge, reading speed, and comprehension, although he continued to make some mistakes. Kevin easily identified words that he already knew. He also guessed at the meaning and sounds of words unknown to him. He identified most Korean letters and sounds and read correctly by putting his index finger under each word as he read. It was clear that he read to understand the meaning of words and content in text. His understanding of a narrative text, usually several paragraphs of a short book, was illustrated when he was asked to pause and predict what would happen next. With his knowledge of Korean vocabulary and his comprehension ability, Kevin usually understood story texts and often correctly predicted the next events in the story.

Kevin also made gradual improvements in his Korean writing. His content and flow improved slightly during this 10-month study. At the start of this study, his diary entries consisted of 2- to 3-word sentences, such as "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" (i.e., "I went to school."), and there was no beginning or end to the stories that he wrote. Later, he produced longer essays about topics he chose (e.g., a rainbow) and eventually wrote four to six sentences that flowed quite smoothly. He mastered his understanding of how each letter can function to make the sounds of a whole word. Kevin listened to the first author's pronunciation, carefully trying to write down each letter that had the same sound (or similar sounds, based on his phonemic awareness). This suggested that he attained sound-symbol relationship knowledge, a skill found to be universally essential for success in reading, writing, and spelling (Goshwami, 2002).

Moreover, although Kevin continued to make some mistakes, such as putting no space between words or writing Korean letters in an ill-shaped square, he gained knowledge of the rules about how to write Korean. For example, he exhibited an increased understanding that: 1) letters are written from left to right and top to bottom; 2) letters should be in an imaginary square box; 3) letters usually are written to allow spaces between words, but not in all cases; and 4) Korean letters are not capitalized (Koda, 1998).

In sum, this study revealed that primarily due to parental support, participation in Korean tutoring, and attending a Korean heritage language school, Kevin's Korean literacy skills gradually increased, although not to the level expected for peers living in Korea. Kevin's English oral language and literacy skills also increased. In contrast, Kevin's daily educational practices and interactions with peers and family members (particularly with his sister, who recently entered all-English schooling) resulted in a gradual decrease in Korean oral language use and proficiency. His parents had not expected this outcome, as they had provided material, emotional, and financial support for spoken bilingualism and biliteracy. With best intentions, they tried to develop and incorporate two languages into their daily lives and environments, supported the child's participation in Korean cultural activities, and intended to raise him as a Korean-American who was well-balanced in both languages and cultures. The focal child was frequently though not sufficiently exposed to rich language and literacy events in Korean. Thus, achieving high levels of language proficiency in both Korean and English did not appear to be feasible for this child, provided he continued on the same trajectory, because his daily exposure and use of Korean continued to decrease and could not compete with his daily environmental and institutional exposure to English.

Discussion and Conclusion

Many children become bilingual and biliterate as they grow up in the United States. Despite this, a greater number of these children lose their home languages (Tse, 2001; Wong Fillmore, 1991a), including those whose parents are bilingual and have the ability to speak both the home language and English at home. Taking a sociocultural perspective (i.e., social constructivism and communities of practice) provides insight into both the challenges to developing, and the potential strategies to support, bilingualism and biliteracy for children like Kevin, by looking at the interactions and contexts in which children develop.

The greater linguistic community can play a significant role in children's language choice (Caldas, 2006; Caldas & Caron-Caldas, 2000), placing many of them at risk for losing their home language (Obied, 2008; Tabors & Snow, 2001). These influences appear to be felt even with families that have great financial and sociocultural resources (e.g., the ability and time to send a child to a heritage language school and to a tutor), as did Kevin's family. Interestingly, given the links between oral language proficiency and literacy (see Bialystok, 2001; Grosjean, 1982; Ovando, Collier, & Combs, 2003), it may be true that children from families with fewer resources and who only speak the home language have greater opportunities to become bilingual and biliterate.

Despite the noted benefits of heritage language schools (Shin, 2005; You, 2005), this study suggests that they are not sufficient, not even with the inclusion of bi-weekly tutoring and parents' strong value on using the heritage language. Krashen (1981) asserted that children acquire language when they have exposure to language that lies at and just beyond their current level of development. This was also important to Kevin's Korean language acquisition. Because Kevin was increasingly less proficient in oral Korean, he likely had more difficulty acquiring Korean literacy proficiency (i.e., reading and writing). Oral language development and literacy skills can be linked (e.g., Geva & Zadeh, 2006). Greater exposure, opportunities for meaningful interactions, intensive and structured parental daily support, and daily immersion into heritage culture and community appear critical for children to attain proficiency in the spoken home language and literacy skills.

Another important factor to the acquisition and retention of children's oral home language and literacy is having family time to engage in home language and literacy activities. Clearly, Kevin's parents were busy with their day-to-day activities. Given the busy schedules that many families face, finding the time and energy to devote to spoken home language and literacy may be difficult. Despite parents' desire to have their children experience and use the home language, parents may defer to English, even when speaking at home, as a matter of expediency. Code-switching may result in less use of the home oral language and an increase in the use of oral English and may actually facilitate oral home language and literacy loss. These pressures likely increase when a family has more children. Moreover, as children such as Kevin attend the upper elementary grades, more homework is required, socialization events with English-speaking peers increase, and extracurricular activities demand more time spent using English.

Additionally, children's oral language and literacy acquisition can be affected by attitudes. For Kevin, who often stated that reading and writing Korean was too difficult compared to English, he did not realize that Korean sound-symbols are actually more closely correlated than the sound-symbols of English. In fact, Korean letters were scientifically developed to fit the Korean language, which is syllabic. Consequently, Korean-English bilingual students tend to more easily recognize symbol-sound correspondence in Korean than in English (Koda, 1998; Shin, 2005). Thus, for Kevin, learning to read and write in Korean should have been easier if he had a strong basis in Korean oral language and greater support within his environment.

Many children in the United States are living in an environment where English literacy and oral language are highly prized and where children are provided not only with English oral language input but also instruction in English literacy on a scale that seems nearly impossible to match with spoken heritage language and literacy input. This exposure to English oral language and English literacy, and the potential benefits of this valuable linguistic code (Wong-Fillmore, 1991a), appears to override individuals' and families' value on spoken home language and literacy retention.

Motivation (Gardner & Lambert, 1972) and opportunities for authentic communication (Lindfors, 2008) are other major factors that appear to account for English taking precedence over Korean. For Kevin, there was little or no motivation to learn Korean literacy and oral language, because he could always read, write, and communicate in English to have his social, emotional, physical, and educational needs met. Likewise, little authentic and purposeful use of Korean was evident compared to that of English. Despite his parents' emphasis on the meaning and usefulness of being bilingual and biliterate, Kevin and many other bilingual children have few experiences to help develop a strong motivation to learn to read and write in the heritage language. Moreover, these same children (and, at times, other family members, due to their recognition of the benefits of English spoken language and literacy) may have little motivation and purpose to continue pursuing spoken home language and literacy learning.

Children's identity also is likely to play a role in oral language and literacy acquisition. Children like Kevin need a strong Korean-American bi-ethnic/-cultural identity to support their bilingualism and biliteracy (McCarthey, 2002; Norton, 2000). Kevin, like many second-generation children, saw himself as American rather than Korean or Korean American. With his identity as American, and his motivation to assimilate with peers and adults, he did not see the usefulness or purposes of reading and writing in Korean. As a result, Kevin may not have realized any advantage to being biliterate.

All of this paints a picture that is truly disturbing. Despite significant family resources, children's early acquisition of the oral home language and literacy skills, and families' value on spoken home language and literacy acquisition and retention, some children are not likely to become bilingual and biliterate adults. It would be easy to blame the parents for these outcomes, because they failed to remain consistent in their use of the home language; casting blame would be inappropriate, however (Grosjean, 1982). It takes an entire community to demonstrate the value of bilingualism to children for them to be intrinsically motivated and recognize the purposes to pursue more than one language. In communities that place greater value on bilingualism and biliteracy, children would grow up seeing the use of two languages as a normal state of affairs rather than an aberration. Indeed, communities have established programs for children in the United States that help promote bilingualism and biliteracy (e.g., Shin, 2005; Tse, 2001). It is through bilingual maintenance programs that children, such as the focal child of this study, appear to have the greatest chance to become bilingual and biliterate and gain the benefits that accompany these diverse linguistic skills.

Limitations

There are several limitations in this study, the first of which is related to the larger contextual question of a single case study. Single case studies have some advantages, such as in-depth and interpretive presentation of data to focus on one typical or unique case. The focal child for this study was likely representative of numerous Korean children in the research context with similar backgrounds. However, this study may not be representative of children from other ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographic backgrounds. Overall, the two authors kept in mind that single cases are socioculturally situated representations of phenomenon (Dyson & Genishi, 2005; Stake, 1995) rather than a representation of the phenomenon itself. Consequently, this case study has value (see Flyvbjerg, 2006) and provides families and educators with important details about acquisition and maintenance of home languages for children with language-minority backgrounds.

Another limitation was related to the difficulty of selecting and analyzing data from a longitudinal, six-year study. Children's language and literacy development is continuous, complicated, and related to each stage; therefore, the two authors had difficulty extracting only 10 months from the larger longitudinal study. The focal child has demonstrated different stages of bilingualism/biliteracy over the six years of the larger study, but we chose this 10-month period to highlight the focal child's process in becoming bilingual/biliterate while he and his siblings were increasingly exposed to the all-English schooling in the United States. Future publications will address different stages within the entire six-year period.

Implications

This study presented a detailed analysis of a child's oral bilingual and biliterate development and influential sociocultural factors; thus, this study has important implications for both practice and research.

Implications for Practice. Children such as Kevin need intensive input and opportunity for interactions in schools, communities, and homes to be bilingual and biliterate in English and their home language. Parents and educators can put more effort into biliteracy and bilingualism to achieve the highest levels of bilingualism and biliteracy. In school settings, home language and literacy practices should be connected and visible (Gregory & Williams, 2000; Kenner, 2000), as illustrated in quality bilingual maintenance programs. For schools in which English is the primary or sole means of communication and learning, educators can emphasize the value of children's home languages and literacies. To do this, educators also should learn about bilingual students' background knowledge, cultural repertoires, and daily home practices through surveys, home visits, and regular communication with family members and children (Ovando, Collier, & Combs, 2003; Tabors, 2008). Teachers can engage children in multiculturally themed units, such as history (of the United States and other countries), travel, or ships from diverse cultures to connect the content knowledge into diverse bilingual students' home culture and language (Cheatham, Santos, & Ro, 2007).

Teachers also can group children who share the same linguistic or cultural background and support them as they communicate in their home language before bringing the children together again to speak English in a large group. Developing KWL tables (Tompkins, 2006), both in their home language and English, can help children refer to their own background knowledge and home language in relation to academic content. Thus, even in environments with limited or no home language use, educators can model practices to illustrate the essential belief that children's cultures, home languages, and associated literacies are valuable.

Similarly, families can engage in practices to facilitate home language and literacy development. Families' consistent use of the home language can demonstrate the value of the home language and foster children's receptive oral competencies, even if children choose to respond in English (Saville-Troike, 1988, 2003). Given the importance of motivation and purposeful communication to language learning, families can provide their children with authentic situations for home language use, such as interactions with grandparents who do not know English, pen pals, and opportunities to visit the parents' home country. When possible (for example, during summer vacations), families may be able to arrange for their children to stay in the "home country" (e.g., Korea), where the value and purpose of the home culture and language is transparent.

Implications for Research. The use of case study research and the theoretical perspectives can provide a unique perspective on children's language and literacy development in context. In accordance with Stake (1995, 2006), in-depth study of a family may include documenting their daily practices, spoken language and literacy events, and assessing linguistic competencies, all of which can lead to important insights. When this approach to research was combined with the theoretical perspectives of Vygotsky (1978) and Wenger's (1998) communities of practice, the dialectical process of socialization in the family within the larger sociocultural context was illuminated. Consequently, this study provided greater understanding of one child's oral language and literacy practices and outcomes. Thus, this study highlighted the value of viewing spoken language and literacy learning as socioculturally embedded contexts within communities of practice. Future research implementing case study methodology with a sociocultural theoretical framework may provide greater insight into these and other phenomena.

In conclusion, this study was based on a 10-month period out of a six-year, ongoing qualitative case study of one Korean-American child living in a bilingual family and attending all-English schooling. Through case study examination, results suggested that the focal child made gains in home language literacy proficiency as a result of tutoring and participation in a heritage language school and his parents' efforts. However, his home oral language competencies were decreasing, due to a lack of home-language experiences, even as his home language literacy abilities were slowly increasing. At the same time, his English oral language and literacy abilities were increasing rapidly and supplanting those of his home language.

This case study clearly points to the need for greater opportunities for home oral language and literacy development; for example, through more structured and intensive educational programs, as well as through greater opportunities in the home and community to purposefully use the home language. It is likely that only with such support that many children will achieve bilingualism and biliteracy. We hope this study helps other scholars and educators understand bilingual children's perspectives, goals, hardships, contextual factors, and practical concerns, including how we can more effectively support children like Kevin.

(submitted 6/25/08; accepted: 9/10/08)

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Yeonsun Ellie Ro

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Gregory A. Cheatham

Arizona State University
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