Understanding young Korean-American children’s peer culture at a Korean heritage language school
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This study examines how young Korean-American children interpret and share different cultural knowledge and practices with peers, how their shared understanding contributes to their peer culture, and how these children’s peer culture shapes and is shaped by local and larger cultural values and practices. Using ethnographic methods, data were derived from the participant observation of eleven children; field notes; video-and audio-recordings; interviews with their caregivers, teachers, school staff members; and the collection of artifacts over a research period of one academic year at a Korean heritage language school located in a metropolitan area in the southeastern United States. Drawing on multidisciplinary frameworks that include cultural psychology, a language socialization approach, and an interpretive reproduction approach, this study focused on understanding young Korean-American children’s shared meanings, norms, and practices in their peer culture. Specific findings were drawn from an inductive analysis based on grounded theory. Findings suggest that Korean-American children actively negotiate their shared meaning and reflect larger cultural values and beliefs within their peer culture. Through peer interactions, the most critical tool for socialization, these children negotiated with their peers the social and cultural knowledge they acquired from the adult world. This study not only sheds light on the peer culture of young Korean-American children but also provides important implications for early childhood education and teacher education. This study calls for further research on other rarely studied minority groups.