"We Pray, and We Read. I Let Them Watch Some TV": African American Preschoolers' Bedtime Experiences with Literacy

Jenell N. Kelly, Robin L Jarrett, Meeshay Williams-Wheeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research on the bedtime routines of young children suggests that such experiences can provide literacy enhancing benefits. A small body of research considers the experiences of African American families and young children. Compared with European American, middle-class families, studies of African American families and children suggest that bedtime routines are infrequent and may have fewer benefits. Adding to this small body of research, we consider the bedtime routines of 20 low- and middle-income African American families and their preschoolers. Using interview data from primary caregivers, we describe children's bedtime experiences, with a particular focus on literacy practices. A strengths-based approach and family resiliency framework guided the research. Our qualitative design was informed by an interpretive approach that emphasized the strengths of family practices. We found that bedtime routines were major literacy events for preschoolers that, in part, reflected the rich African American cultural traditions of reading and prayer. We also found that nighttime television viewing was a common bedtime experience for African American preschoolers and had positive benefits for children and families. Families used three patterns: television viewing only; alternating between television and shared reading; and combining television with reading and prayer. In examining the influence of social class, we found slight variations in shared reading and television viewing among African American families in our study. These findings are relevant for providing culturally-responsive programming and informing social policy.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalWestern Journal of Black Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016


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