Early Literacy Research Library (ELRL) - Article

Third Space of the Home: Transnational Chinese Families’ English Home Literacy and Language Learning

Huang, Y., Guerrettaz, A.M., Newcomer, S.N. (2023) Third Space of the Home: Transnational Chinese Families' English Home Literacy and Language Learning. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism.,

Access: Institutional Access

Publication year


study description

Case Study / Qualitative

core topic(s)

Early Literacy , Shared Reading

Population Characteristics

International , Lingually Diverse , Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

Exposures, Outcomes, Other

Home Language/Literacy/Learning Environment , Language and Literacy Development , Parent Behaviors and Skills , Parent-Child Relationships/Interactions


This case study examined the English home literacy and language learning (EHLLL) practices of two transnational Chinese families during their year abroad while working and studying in the U.S.



outcomes evaluated

English home literacy and language learning practices (EHLLL)


This study was conducted in a Northwestern U.S. town – henceforth College Town – with approximately 35,000 residents in 2020; populated largely by faculty, staff, and students. The racial makeup included a White majority, Asians as the largest minority, Native Americans, Black Americans, and Latines.


Research methods included observations, interviews, and discourse analysis. Our analysis uses Third Space theory to highlight the significance of participants’ culturally hybrid literacy and learning practices. Influenced by their transnationalism, these families’ homes – and namely their EHLLL practices – become an educational Third Space.

sample size

n=2 (families)


Qualitative Thematic Analysis


Analysis focuses on three aspects of their EHLLL: (a) a parent–child shared-reading practice valued by this transnational Chinese community, which involved English-language storybooks and ‘listen and repeat’ (gen du) activity, (b) parents’ new roles in children’s EHLLL, through which they navigated major differences in Chinese versus American education systems, and (c) parent–child interactions that showed how home was a ‘pedagogical safe house’ for children facing the challenges of transnational education.


This timely study illuminates the distinctive educational goals of transnational families who definitively plan to repatriate. It also provides needed insights into a large and growing, but poorly understood, population – transnational Chinese families.


Regarding study limitations, more participants and research on this topic would be beneficial. For instance, our research design focused on two different ages of children and parents of different genders. Ling’s preschool age versus Ming’s third grade status may explain Mrs. Wang’s ‘play-focused’ approach versus Mr. Zhang’s strictness. Similarly, gender may explain how this woman versus this man parent engaged dissimilarly with their children: Mr. Zhang typically behaved more authoritatively than Mrs. Wang. Gender-related influences on Chinese parental engagement in children’s home learning are another area for future research.