Early literacy practices by KunHwi: a longitudinal case study of a Korean boy

Access full-text files




Kim, Sun Joo

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This qualitative, longitudinal case study of KunHwi, my son, explores his four-year journey (from kindergarten to third grade) into becoming biliterate in Korean and English while living in the United States. Drawing on a “literacy as social practices” perspective, the purposes of this study are: 1) to gain an in-depth understanding of KunHwi’s literacy development in Korean and English; and 2) to devise a comprehensive model for explaining the complex processes of early biliteracy development. The data were collected from multiple sources including his written artifacts, informal conversation with KunHwi as well as his teachers, observation in and out of school using kidwatching strategies, and various school documents in relation to his literacy practices. Ethnographic fieldnotes were recorded to reconstruct full descriptions of every scene. The data were analyzed recursively using constant-comparative analysis. vii Four themes emerged from the data analysis: literacy development 1) as situated practices; 2) as a process of negotiation of power; 3) as a journey toward taking control of the literacy repertoire; and 4) as complex processes of using languages for different purposes. Moreover, the findings conceptualize early biliteracy development as a complex, nonlinear progression and challenge traditional images of immigrants through the notion of academic transnationalism. The findings suggest various theoretical and practical implications for the education of English language learners in and out of the United States. The theoretical implications are: 1) Examine biliteracy development as a multidimensional configuration of intersecting tenets; 2) Revise the notion of L1 and L2, as well as the native and non-native dichotomy; 3) Recognize language minorities in the U.S. as a heterogeneous and multivoiced group of people; and 4) Appreciate and value parent-child research. The practical implications are: 1) Incorporate different discourses into school curricula; 2) Create an environment in which power is well-distributed across settings and participants; 3) Design and implement literacy practices that allow students to learn literacy through genres to promote their metalinguistic knowledge across languages; and 4) Provide English language learners with opportunities to be engaged in various topics from diverse inquiry areas and cultures with authentic purposes and genuine interest.