Children Crossing Borders

Children Crossing Borders: Immigrant Parent and Teacher Perspectives on Preschool for Children of Immigrants

Joseph Tobin
Angela E. Arzubiaga
Jennifer Keys Adair
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 164
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  • Book Info
    Children Crossing Borders
    Book Description:

    In many school districts in America, the majority of students in preschools are children of recent immigrants. For both immigrant families and educators, the changing composition of preschool classes presents new and sometimes divisive questions about educational instruction, cultural norms and academic priorities. Drawing from an innovative study of preschools across the nation,Children Crossing Bordersprovides the first systematic comparison of the beliefs and perspectives of immigrant parents and the preschool teachers to whom they entrust their children.

    Children Crossing Borderspresents valuable evidence from the U.S. portion of a landmark five-country study on the intersection of early education and immigration. The volume shows that immigrant parents and early childhood educators often have differing notions of what should happen in preschool. Most immigrant parents want preschool teachers to teach English, prepare their children academically, and help them adjust to life in the United States. Many said it was unrealistic to expect a preschool to play a major role in helping children retain their cultural and religious values. The authors examine the different ways that language and cultural differences prevent immigrant parents and school administrations from working together to achieve educational goals. For their part, many early education teachers who work with immigrant children find themselves caught between two core beliefs: on one hand, the desire to be culturally sensitive and responsive to parents, and on the other hand adhering to their core professional codes of best practice. While immigrant parents generally prefer traditional methods of academic instruction, many teachers use play-based curricula that give children opportunities to be creative and construct their own knowledge. Worryingly, most preschool teachers say they have received little to no training in working with immigrant children who are still learning English.

    For most young children of recent immigrants, preschools are the first and most profound context in which they confront the conflicts between their home culture and the United States. Policymakers and educators, however, are still struggling with how best to serve these children and their parents.Children Crossing Bordersprovides valuable research on these questions, and on the ways schools can effectively and sensitively incorporate new immigrants into the social fabric.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-807-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. About the Authors
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Joseph Tobin
  6. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    At the conclusion of a discussion we ran with a group of nine Mexican mothers at a Head Start program on New York’s Upper West Side, we asked if there was anything they wanted us to communicate to their children’s teachers. One mother replied: “Ask them, ‘Would it kill you to teach my child to write her name before she enters kindergarten?’” Later that day we interviewed the program’s African American director:

    Tobin: In the focus groups here, many of the immigrant parents told us that they want more direct instruction and academic emphasis. Are you aware of this?


  7. Chapter 2 Community Contexts and Research Methods
    (pp. 20-34)

    In the United States, as of 2010, there were 8.7 million children under age eight with at least one foreign-born parent, a number that had doubled since 1990 (Fortuny, Hernandez, and Chaudry 2010). Immigrant families from Mexico, South America, and Central America make up 63 percent of the total immigrant population (Fortuny, Hernandez, and Chaudry 2010). Latino children of immigrants are the fastest-growing group of students attending early childhood education programs around the country (Garcia 2007). But the percentage of Americans who were born in another country is just part of the story. Because immigrant parents tend to be younger...

  8. Chapter 3 Curriculum
    (pp. 35-58)

    Many of the immigrant parents in our focus groups expressed appreciation for the quality of the toys and play opportunities available to their children in a U.S. preschool, some noting that the early childhood education settings in their home country often lacked such resources. As an immigrant mother from Guatemala said in a focus group in New York City, “Back home, there was nothing to play with in the classroom. Not like here. No toys or paints.” Nevertheless, in spite of their appreciation for the way a play-oriented curriculum created a welcoming atmosphere for their children, in our focus groups...

  9. Chapter 4 Language
    (pp. 59-78)

    Of all the topics discussed in our interviews with parents and teachers, language was the one that produced the most comments. In focus group after focus group, immigrant parents told us that they were anxious for their children to learn English, but at the same time they worried about their children growing up losing fluency in their home language. We began the project expecting to hear strong support from immigrant parents for home-language preservation and endorsement of a bilingual approach in the preschool classroom. What we found instead was that most parents and some teachers, though worried that children would...

  10. Chapter 5 Identity
    (pp. 79-116)

    Immigrant parents brought to discussions of identity a sense of idealism mixed with a pragmatism that reflected their assessment of the opportunities and constraints of the communities in which they had settled. Across our research sites, immigrant parents told us they want their children to become Americans, but also to maintain ties to their cultural roots. For example, Mr. Mohamed, an Egyptian father in Tempe, Arizona, suggested that his children needed to balance becoming active citizens in their adopted land with fidelity to their home culture’s values:

    This is my personal opinion. What I don’t want in my children, is,...

  11. Chapter 6 Facilitating Dialogue
    (pp. 117-128)

    As the focus group stage of our project drew to a close, we returned to Riverdale, Iowa, for a follow-up session with a mixed group of teachers and immigrant parents. Up to this point in the project, all of our focus group discussions had been with parentsorteachers. An interpreter was present to interpret between the English-speaking teachers and Spanish-speaking parents. A teacher began the session by thanking the parents for coming, letting them know that the staff at the preschool was eager to get to know them better, and that their goal was to help young children feel...

  12. References
    (pp. 129-140)
  13. Index
    (pp. 141-148)