Date of Award

Fall 12-16-2022

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Literacy Education


Susan Bennett-Armistead

Second Committee Member

Rich Kent

Third Committee Member

Tammy Mills

Additional Committee Members

Alec Lapidus

Flynn Ross


Somalia has a long and rich oral literacy tradition of poetry, proverbs, and songs, while Somalia’s print literacy history has been significantly disrupted by colonization and then the Somali Civil War. Many Somalis have fled the country since the start of the civil war in 1991, and an estimated 10,000 Somalis have made a new home in Maine. When Somali citizens relocated to Maine, they were exposed to Maine’s Raising Readers children’s book distribution program. Raising Readers distributes high-quality, age-appropriate, English-language children’s books during pediatric well-child visits to foster family literacy interactions and children’s emergent literacy skills.

This study explores how the experience of Raising Readers book distribution fits within Somali New Mainer families’ literacy practices by utilizing in-depth dialogic interviewing techniques with four parents. Through semi-structured interviews, their families’ literacy practices and experiences receiving children’s books are discussed. Exploratory findings emerging from this study include appreciation for the Raising Readers program, and extensive print-based family literacy practices within the homes of participating parents even though the participating parents had not engaged with children’s books or shared reading activities in their homes when they were children. In addition to print-based activities of shared book reading, homework help, and Qur’anic learning, parents relayed many oral literacy practices. First and foremost, storytelling is a beloved practice amongst all generations of participating parents’ family members; in addition, some poetry and song practices emerged. Of note is that Somali language loss is occurring for some of the participating families’ children.

Implications stemming from these findings include insights for medical practitioners, Raising Readers administrators, teachers, and parents. Ultimately, while participating parents shared constructive feedback to make book distribution even more impactful for newcomer families, their overarching perception of Raising Readers is one of gratitude for the program that reinforces participating parents’ literacy goals for their children and illustrates that “Reading is everywhere.”