|Abstract:||When parents are present and play an active role in their child’s development, they are capable of protecting them from negative characteristics in their neighborhoods that may lead to poor academic and socioemotional outcomes. Family involvement, therefore, is very important because active parents can guide their child’s transition into kindergarten, setting the foundation for a successful educational trajectory. Yet, there is not much research available that speaks to the specific cultural nuances that low-income Black families face in regard to their in-school and at-home parenting practices. Utilizing an asset-based approach that privileges the perspectives of the participants, this dissertation utilizes qualitative research methods (e.g. in-depth interviews, note-taking, and photographic documents) to capture the lived experiences of 21 Black mothers residing in a targeted neighborhood within Chicago.
Several findings emerged in this study. First, while mothers have various beliefs about what it means to be ready for school, primarily their focus is on teaching nominal knowledge (i.e. letter, numbers, colors, or shapes) and skills for emergent literacy development (i.e. reading, writing, spelling, tracing, or drawing). Extended family members, including grandparents, aunts, and cousins as well as residential and non-residential fathers and siblings are each contributing to the school readiness preparations for the majority of families (n=20). Mothers in this study demonstrated that beliefs about education are intergenerational, including beliefs surrounding academic achievement and parenting values. Subsequently highlighting the lack of resources available in their neighborhoods to support their children during the transition to primary school. However, these mothers also demonstrate their resilience by making use of the tools available, such as Head Start programming. Lastly, mothers provide policy and practice recommendations to support families during the transition from preschool to kindergarten. Findings from this study produce descriptive data (i.e. the written words, spoken words, or observed behavior of our Black families) regarding the specific ways these families engage their children in preparation for school entry. This provides first-hand accounts on the parenting practices of Black families that promote school readiness. While findings from this study aren’t generalizable, many families may find similarities with the stories of the participants in this sample.