October 2021 Spotlight, Rufan Luo, Ph.D

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Rufan Luo (rufan.luo@rutgers.edu) as our member in spotlight. Dr. Luo is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Rutgers University – Camden. Her research focuses on understanding the complex connections between children’s home learning experiences and parent-child interactions influence and support early language and cognitive development, with a focus on children and families from socioeconomically, culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. She is also interested in the development of early interventions using community-based participatory research for children and caregivers from at-risk families.

  • What drew you to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? Who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field?  

Frederick Douglass wrote: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.” My goal as a developmental researcher is to uncover and promote effective ways to build strong children. My interest in child development can be traced back to my sophomore year, when I joined Dr. Yanjie Su’s developmental psychology lab at Peking University. One of my lab tasks was to collect observational data on parent-child interactions. I still remember how fascinated I was when the concepts we learned in class – shared attention, attachment, emotion regulation – unfolded in front of my eyes. I became interested in parenting and early childhood development, and followed my passion to pursue a PhD in developmental psychology at New York University. I was extremely fortunate to have worked with Dr. Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, who guided me to study parenting and child development through the lens of sociocultural contexts. My graduate work focused on how contextual factors (e.g., culture, SES, linguistic and immigration backgrounds) shape parent-child language and literacy interactions, home learning environment, and children’s language and school readiness outcomes. In my postdoctoral training at Temple University, Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek introduced me to the world of translational science. I was able to reach one more step towards my goal of building strong children by developing community-based, early language interventions for children and caregivers from at-risk neighborhoods and creating language assessment tools for monolingual and dual language learners. Now that I’ve started my own research lab at Rutgers University – Camden, I continue to study the complex interrelationships among contextual factors, early learning experiences, and language and cognitive outcomes, and have expanded my focus from the home setting to the classroom context.

  • Tell us about a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it.  

In a recently published study, Dr. Lulu Song at Brooklyn College and I developed a parent questionnaire to assess what parents of preschool Spanish-English dual language learners (DLL) knew about dual language development and bilingual education. Our findings suggested both strengths and opportunities for growth in parental beliefs and knowledge. Additionally, parental beliefs and knowledge was positively associated with their relative Spanish input at home and children’s school readiness skills in Spanish. These findings highlight the need for culturally responsive interventions and parent education programs, which must recognize both the strengths and areas of improvement in parents of DLLs and support parents to transform knowledge into high-quality language and literacy experiences that benefit DLLs.

Currently, we are working on expanding the questionnaire to capture more aspects of parental beliefs and knowledge. We have also developed the Chinese version of the questionnaire to assess parents of Chinese-English dual language learners.

Check out our study here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.661208/full

  • Thoughts about your experiences with the Asian Caucus. 

I enjoyed going to the Asian Caucus meetings at SRCD when I was a graduate student. It’s a wonderful opportunity for young scholars to build a network and learn from senior researchers in the field.

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