Enabling Bi-literacy Patterns in Ethiopian Immigrant Families in Israel: A Socio-Educational Challenge

Anat Stavans

Professeure au Beit Berl College, Kfar Saba, en Israël

23 octobre 2019

This presentation explores the role that languages and literacy practices play in Ethiopian immigrant families transposed to Israel as part of Israel’s family language policy (FLP), by examining parental perspectives on their respective L1 and L2 usages, in both parents’ and children’s lives, as well as by examining the home literacy provisions supporting children’s literacy development. 

The presentation consists of two interrelated parts. The first part will present the study that profiles 67 Ethiopian immigrant families, and describes the factors affecting home and school literacy patterns, assessing usage and attitude in L1 and L2 proficiency, as well as families’ literacy-driven discourse practices. The findings of this study indicate that Ethiopian parents engage in their children’s educational and social life until first grade, when they relinquish the maintenance of L1 in favor of a yet incomplete L2. Furthermore, the results of this study indicate that although both Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian parents have different extended discourses and perhaps even discursive preferences, the form and function of these discourses coincide with those needed or assumed for successful development of scholastic literacy.

The Ethiopian case is instrumental to describe language and literacy affordances in a country that is officially trilingual, a neighborhood that is at least quadrilingual, a home that is bilingual and a schooling system that is monolingual. Against this background, a need emerges to espouse a mutual respect and interaction between the two literacy traditions to enhance both children’s and parents’ literacy development. This led to the second part of this presentation that consists of the intervention we created and carried out in 30 Kindergarten classes in one city in Israel (Rehovot) where there is a high concentration of Ethiopian immigrant families in 2 neighborhoods in the city. The intervention consisted of training K-level personal (90 participants) to enable and adopt translingual practices and learn to interpret children’s products as reflective of the oral language development, their emergent literacy development, their cultural heritage and practices. 


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