Promoting Home Languages to Foster Preschoolers’ Sense of Identity and Wellbeing

Researchers: Andrea MacLeod1, Catrine Demers1, Diane Pesco2, Rabia Sabah Meziane3, Yvonne Chiu4, Naheed Mukhi4, Negin Yousefi1
University of Alberta1, Concordia University2, Université de Montréal3, Multicultural Health Brokers4
Research Partner:
Multicultural Health Brokers
Keywords: newcomer children, refugee children, parents, home language, language maintenance, dual language stimulation, bilingualism, wellbeing, identity, preschool, language intervention, CYRM-R, Person Most Knowledgeable Child and Youth Resilience Measure


Overview: This study implements a dual-language stimulation program, StimuLER, with preschool-aged newcomer children and their parents to promote home language development. The study also seeks to better understand the impact of home language learning on children’s sense of identity and wellbeing.

Objective: to implement language maintenance strategies through collaborative language stimulation sessions with newcomer preschool children and their parents. The study seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. What language maintenance strategies are used by parents before and after they take part in these sessions?
  2. What are children’s responses to these strategies?
  3. How do these sessions impact children’s well-being and identity from their own perspective, and the perspective of their parents?

Research Justification: Studies have shown that supporting children’s home language can improve their wellbeing, help them access their religion and participate in their community, strengthen self-esteem and sense of identity, and overall lead to greater resilience. However, available resources to support early language learning focus solely on the language of schooling and the responsibility for home language maintenance is placed on families, many of whom experience marginalization, racism, and acculturation stress. Preschool programs and schools share a responsibility to support children’s language development.


This study will use a mixed-methods approach, including interviews, quantitative measures, and direct observation. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with parents before and after the language stimulation sessions to capture their perspectives on language maintenance and strategies; their perception of their child’s wellbeing will be captured using the Person Most Knowledgeable Child and Youth Resilience Measure – Revised (PMK-CYRM-R). Semi-structured interviews will also be conducted with children before and after the sessions to explore their wellbeing and identity. These interviews will focus on themes from the literature, including attitudes towards bilingualism, attitudes towards language, learning and preschool, and their sense of wellbeing, using the Child and Youth Resilience Measure – Revised (CYRM-R). Finally, the research team will observe parent-child interactions during the sessions, including the language they use to initiate and respond to one another and the child’s uptake of strategies to support dual language development.

The language stimulation sessions come from the innovation, StimuLER, which was initially developed and evaluated by the research team with refugee children in a previous CYRRC-funded project. StimuLER builds around a theme by using storytelling and group activities to provide rich opportunities for interaction amongst parents, group facilitators (including refugee youth) and children.

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