All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Lynn D Kirkland

Advisory Committee Members

James M Ernest

Jenna M Lachenaye

Kathleen A Martin

Marilee M Ranson

Susan Spezzini

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Education


Educating those who speak languages other than English is one of the biggest conundrums in education today, and literacy acquisition is relevant as more Emergent Bilinguals (EBs) enter public schools each year. For those EBs who struggle with family disruptions and literacy, the problem is even more profound. There is a gap in the literature concerning academic outcomes due to family disruptions. The purpose of this narrative case study was to describe the life experience of a 12th-grade, Hispanic, bilingual student classified as learning disabled in elementary school who was not literate in her native language or the English language, understand her individual experience in dynamic relation to people, places, and things inside of the school setting, and investigate how the disruptions in the student’s life impacted her literacy. Furthermore, the study highlighted the use of best practices for primary grade literacy instruction adapted to teach a secondary level student who had not learned to read. Recognizing a child’s experience and using this knowledge to enlighten practice empowers the child to engage in the struggle for her own learning and language acquisition (Freire, 1970). The study was conducted using qualitative methodology as it lends itself to exploring personal experiences and their meaning for the individual in particular in regard to the case study (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Creswell, 2013, Yin, 2014). As the study was driven by the underpinnings of social constructivism, it was constructivist by its nature. As I developed the narrative, I constructed knowledge through interactions with the participant and through interviews with stakeholders in her life. Key findings include the educational influences on her learning, in particular, ineffective literacy practices and lack of literacy training, confusion determining language acquisition difficulties, and effective literacy practices. Other findings include socioemotional influences manifested through teacher and student relationships and peer relationships. Finally, the effects of family disruptions especially moves and trauma are significant.

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