This doctoral thesis centres on six children, aged four to nine, who relatively recently immigrated to Sweden. The children’s encounters with literacy are in focus. These children are not only new arrivals to Sweden, they also have in common that Swedish is their second language and that their parents have had little or no formal education prior to arriving in Sweden. The study draws on sociocultural approaches to literacy, and more specifically the field of New Literacy Studies. In this study, reading and writing are viewed as social practices comprising different related sociocultural aspects such as norms, values, habits, traditions and ideologies, and the study concentrates on social and ideological perspectives on literacy. Bourdieu’s notions of habitus and symbolic capital have also been used for the analysis.
The empirical material was collected through an ethnographic approach. Each child was followed for one year, particularly at school/preschool. The children’s homes were also visited, and their parents and teachers were interviewed. Observations involved different degrees of participation and were documented through field notes and photographs. The interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. In addition, artefacts and school material from the field were collected or photographed. A qualitative content analysis of the collected data was performed.
The analysis show that sociocultural incongruence, coupled with flawed communication between the schools and the homes, caused the children less continuity between school and home practices. Though, the results also show, that the children studied to a considerable extent adapted to the monolingual, homogenous norms when they participated in school practices. These children are therefore highly adaptable, while their teachers found it much harder to handle or even be aware of sociocultural incongruences.