Migrant Mothers Becoming Active Agents In A United States Midwestern Context: Building Strengths By Breaking Down The Outside-Inside Barrier





belonging, Discourses, family literacy, migrant education, mobility, parent education


In the current context of extensive national and cross-cultural migration, the education of migrant and refugee children is an important and critical consideration. In the U.S., the education of migrant children—who move with their farm worker parents within states, across state borders and sometimes across national borders—brings challenges that relate to educational discontinuity as well as the cultural contexts and expectations of schooling. This article reports on research that investigated a family literacy program that catered for migrant families in one rural location in the United States Midwest. Through a multipronged approach, the program supported children’s early literacy development, provided adult education including English language instruction and parenting education, and offered liaison between the parents and their children’s schools. Research data were collected through interviews with migrant mothers who participated in the program. Using Gee’s (1996) notion of Discourse, the article considers the way that the program enabled the mothers to negotiate the outside-inside barrier of the rural community. By building their skills and strategies, the mothers were developing into active agents who could participate in their children’s education in ways that community outsiders could not usually do.

Author Biographies

Judith A. Gouwens, Roosevelt University

Judith Gouwens is Professor of Elementary Education in the Roosevelt University (Chicago) College of Education. Her publications include 'Migrant Education: A Reference Handbook' (2001) about the U.S. migrant education program, and 'Education in Crisis' (2009) about education reform.

Robyn Henderson, University of Southern Queensland

Robyn Henderson is an Associate Professor at the University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia. She is interested in the intersection between student mobility and literacy education, particularly in rural communities. She is also keen to further develop how knowledge about student mobility can be used to inform and enhance teachers' pedagogical work in classrooms.


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How to Cite

Gouwens, J. A., & Henderson, R. (2017). Migrant Mothers Becoming Active Agents In A United States Midwestern Context: Building Strengths By Breaking Down The Outside-Inside Barrier. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 27(2), 136–148. https://doi.org/10.47381/aijre.v27i2.125