Refugee Children's Adaptation to American Early Childhood Classrooms: A Narrative Inquiry

Document Type

Historical Context in the Americas

Publication Date


Publication Title

The Qualitative Report


Researchers have suggested that a paucity of research exists on refugee youth in early childhood education settings. Arguing that children’s stories provide educators a valuable resource for understanding the meaning children make of initial cross-cultural experiences, this article presents a narrative inquiry into the stories and artwork of three early childhood students, along with the narratives of their families, all Karen refugees from Myanmar. Examining what these stories reveal about the children’s initial experiences in an American early childhood setting, we share their stories of adaptation, their experiences of cultural dissonance, and their illustrations of change over time.

In addition to developing these themes, we also promote the use of multi-modal storytelling and the collection of family stories in narrative inquiries into young children’s experience. As educators strive to provide high-quality educational experiences for all children, listening to children’s stories of their adaptation experience and the narratives of their families may help us to foster smooth transitions into American early childhood classrooms for young refugee students.