CharacteristicsIn addition to the attributes and characteristics and the School challenges identified for all refugee students, young refugees are particularly affected by the families’ personal situation. They have experienced considerable trauma and upheaval in their short lives. They may have been born under dangerous circumstances to mothers who received inadequate medical care. Some were born and/or raised in refugee camps; some are second and third generation camp survivors. Some refugee children have witnessed or been victims of violence. They may have been in hiding and unable to move about or make any noise. The transition to a new country may have been sudden, sometimes involving more than one move before and after entering Canada. They may have been separated from their parents and other  family members, been reunited, or perhaps are living with other guardians, relatives or strangers. Their access to education has likely been interrupted or postponed. The families may be experiencing numerous settlement challenges related to housing, employment, language training and cross-cultural adjustment.

In addition to having missed out on typical childhood activities that contribute to healthy development and experiential learning, these young learners have likely had little or no exposure to books, much less had the thousands of hours of lap reading, vocabulary building, and positive experiences with letters and sounds that are essential early literacy experiences in either their first language or in English.