Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Hibbert, Kathryn

2nd Supervisor

Zhang Zheng



Family literacy is important for Chinese immigrant families who are concerned for their children's English and Chinese biliteracy development. This systematic literature review uses multiliteracies as the theoretical lens to analyze 17 studies from the ERIC database. The review aims to synthesize reported family literacy practices (including both English- and Chinese-related literacy practices) in English-dominated countries and analyze how literacy is perceived in the literature. Findings suggest that Chinese immigrant families use various materials, blended situated practices, and overt instruction as the main pedagogical approaches to support children's biliteracy development in family contexts. Most researchers and parents conceptualize literacy as mere literacy; only a few researchers and parents use a broader definition of literacy that expands literacy learning from reading and writing to speaking and viewing. The findings also suggest that Chinese immigrant children's literacy learning is closely related to cultural, economic, and social capital, power relations, and inequity. This systematic literature review refers to the importance of raising researchers' and Chinese immigrant families' awareness of promoting critical framing and transformed practices in family literacy practices which could lead to actions that change their social realities.

Summary for Lay Audience

Chinese people are the second largest minority group in Canada. The Chinese heritage language was the main language of Canadian immigrants at home in 2016 (Statistics Canada, 2016). Chinese immigrant families aspire to develop the younger generation's literacy in both Chinese and English to support their future development and strengthen family relations.

This review synthesized 17 studies to better understand family literacy practices in Chinese immigrant families in English-speaking countries. It explored the resources Chinese immigrant families use, their approaches, and the family member engagement methods. The findings suggest that Chinese immigrant parents, especially mothers, take the most critical role in supporting children's biliteracy (both Chinese- and English-related literacy practices) development in family contexts. Chinese immigrant parents combined contextual and explicit instructions and various materials to teach children biliteracy.

This review also synthesized researchers' and parents' understanding of literacy. Most researchers and parents believe literacy is reading and writing ability. Only a few researchers and parents believe literacy learning includes reading, writing, speaking, and viewing. The findings show that Chinese immigrant parents believe literacy learning is closely related to cultural, economic, and social resources, power relations, and inequity. These findings highlight the importance of raising awareness among researchers, Chinese immigrant families, and communities about promoting critical analysis and interpretation of social and cultural issues in family literacy practices. Such awareness could lead to actions that change Chinese immigrant families' social realities.