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There is an outpouring of resources, a large body of research, and a string of costly interventions concerning the literacy disparities between low-income African American families and middle-income families and families of other ethnicities. Many studies fail to consider the beliefs and behaviors of African American families, which could very well be the missing link in understanding how children engage in literacy activities and why there are varying degrees of readiness for formal schooling. The present study explored the early literacy beliefs of 11 African American mothers and grandmothers with primary childcare responsibilities, examined their perceptions of their role in supporting literacy acquisition, and further investigated how their beliefs manifest in their interactions with their children and grandchildren from birth to 4 years old. Female participants accessed through a local daycare center completed a demographic survey and participated in interview sessions lasting 45-60 minutes. The results showed that African American parents are engaging in literacy activities at home but differ in the developmental stage at which they begin and the quality, duration, and frequency of their engagement. Their home language use establishes norms that highlight the pervasiveness of systemic inequalities, which make significant differences to their children’s overall literacy development. Many see these indicators as deficits, not merely differences, and they are significant in predicting disparities in educational attainment and the trajectory of the academic careers of marginalized youth. More research is necessary to mediate the home language use of low-income families, establish universal standards and definitions of kindergarten readiness, and support parents in accessing information to undergird their efforts.