The Home-based Involvement Experiences of Low-income Latino Families with Preschoolers Transitioning to Kindergarten: Qualitative Findings

Sarai Coba-Rodriguez, Elizabeth Cambray-Engstrom, Robin L. Jarrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given the limitations of research that mainly uses quantitative measures, often based on culturally-dominant middle-class notions of an “involved parent,” this study sought to gain an in-depth, qualitative understanding of how Latina mothers are involved at home in preparing their preschooler for kindergarten. We also examined barriers impacting their involvement. Using an interpretive methodological approach and a family resilience framework that privileges the stories and strengths of marginalized groups, we conducted in-depth interviews and observations with 17 Latina mothers of preschoolers in one suburban Head Start center. Despite having multiple risk factors, our study found that Latina mothers from low-income backgrounds were involved in multiple formal and informal in-home learning strategies that promoted their children’s cognitive and physical school readiness skills. Mothers engaged in direct teaching, promoting reading, embedding learning in daily activities, assessing knowledge and skills, and utilizing educational materials. They also identified barriers to home-based involvement: language and work barriers, rather than deficits in family cultures, limit families’ involvement. Contributing to the limited qualitative research with Latina mothers from low-income backgrounds who are parenting preschool-aged children enrolled in Head Start, our study highlights mothers’ resilience, detailing how mothers exhibited creativity, agency, and resourcefulness by using diverse strategies to support their children’s kindergarten readiness. These findings expand on demographic studies that emphasize risk factors and ignore resilient family practices among Latino families with preschoolers transitioning to kindergarten. Our findings further provide recommendations for how Head Start can continue to recognize and utilize Latina mothers’ efforts and expertise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2678-2696
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Head Start
  • Latino/Hispanic
  • Parental involvement
  • Qualitative research
  • Resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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