Literacy and numeracy in early childhood: Chinese immigrant parents’ perception of children’s learning
Literacy and numeracy are two key learning areas which contribute to children’s educational outcomes throughout schooling. Research demonstrates that young children begin to develop their first understanding of literacy and numeracy from their everyday experiences at home with their families in their early years, and their experiences influence later learning.
Chinese parents traditionally hold high expectations for their children’s academic achievement. Understanding Chinese children’s literacy and numeracy acquisition in early childhood within their family and cultural contexts can help early childhood educators value the knowledge and skills that a child brings to the educational context.
This study investigates six Chinese immigrant parents’ perceptions of their children’s literacy and numeracy acquisition in early childhood within the Aotearoa New Zealand context. The participants explored their expectations of literacy and numeracy learning in the early years based on their cultural values of education and their social situation as an immigrant with English as a second language. Face-to-face interviews and follow-up telephone interviews were the main data collection instruments. The findings of the study indicate that participants hold some traditional values of education grounded in Confucian philosophy and systematically conceptualise their perspectives of young children’s learning within the New Zealand context. This study found that all participants place a high value on literacy and numeracy learning and conduct various educational activities at home to facilitate their children’s literacy and numeracy through the preparation of a highly supportive environment and through parent-child interaction. The evidence also shows that differences exist in literacy and numeracy activities conducted by participants in their homes. Traditional Chinese instructional learning strategies coexist with the child-initiated and play-based approach in those families. In addition, participants value their children’s learning experiences in New Zealand early childhood education settings. Significantly, they view early childhood educators’ beliefs of children’s learning and strategies applied to facilitate young children’s literacy and numeracy acquisition as key factors which contribute to children’s learning outcomes.
This study makes a contribution to the New Zealand literature of Chinese immigrant parents’ beliefs of children’s literacy and numeracy development. Early childhood educators can gain a new understanding of how Chinese parents perceive their children’s learning based on their pre-established ethnic identities and current social influences in Aotearoa New Zealand.