Successes and challenges of Syrian refugee children: Language, literacy and wellbeing

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Grant: Language, Literacy and Learning Cluster (Paradis [co-lead] & Chen, U of T/OISE (co-lead])

More than 30,000 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Canada since late 2015. As such, there is an urgent need for research to provide evidence for effective policies and practices tailored to the needs of refugee children.  Accordingly, this research project examines factors that determine the successes and challenges in language and literacy development, both in English, the second language (L2) and Arabic, the first language (L1), as Syrian refugee children settle in Canada. In order to fully participate in Canadian schools and society, refugee children need to achieve fluent English language and literacy skills. At the same time, maintenance of their Arabic L1 is key to their identity, family and community relationships.  Determinants of success and challenges in bilingual and bi-literacy development include individual cognitive abilities as well as home language and literacy environments. Given their difficult pre-migration experiences, it is imperative to also include socioemotional wellbeing as a determinant of refugee children’s language and literacy development. This is a longitudinal study -  involving children aged 6-12 and their families - that is being carried out in three Canadian cities and in partnership with collaborators in Germany.  Measures include parent and child questionnaires, standardized and experimental tests of language and reading abilities and the cognitive skills that underlie them. Together, our results will have significant implications for the ways in which educational and service agencies interact with refugee children. Accordingly, our knowledge dissemination plan prioritizes outreach beyond the academic community