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Photo of Coba-Rodriguez, Sarai

Sarai Coba-Rodriguez, PhD, CFLE

Assistant Professor

Educational Psychology

Pronouns: She, Her, Hers/Ella


Building & Room:

1242 ETMSW


1040 W. Harrison St. (M/C 147), Chicago, IL 60607

Office Phone:

(312) 413-1053


Dr. Sarai Coba-Rodriguez's research focuses on school readiness and family involvement among low-income Latino and African-American families and preschool teachers, including their beliefs and practices that promote young children’s successful transition to kindergarten. Challenging notions of dysfunction and deficit, she uses a family resilience approach that emphasizes families’ strengths and cultural resources, as well as families’ agency in promoting their children’s education. Through the use of qualitative research methods (i.e., in-depth interviewing, photo elicitation interviewing, participant observation, and naturalistic observation), Dr. Coba-Rodriguez aims to present a more complex, dynamic, and resilient picture of low-income, racially-diverse families with young children.

Courses Taught

  • Child Development in Contemporary Society (EPSY 255)
  • Family Diversity and Film: A Resilience Framework (EPSY 424)
  • Child, Family, and Community (EPSY 382)
  • Special Topics: [Ethnography of] Ethnic-Racial Families, Neighborhoods, and School Readiness (EPSY 594)

Selected Grants

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, $250,000, Co-PI

The Donley Foundation, $15,000, Co-PI

Selected Publications

*= graduate student 

Coba-Rodriguez, S, & Jarrett, R.L. (2019) “Family Literacy.” Macmillan Encyclopedia of Families, Marriages, and Intimate Relationships, edited by James J. Ponzetti, Jr., vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, pp. 312-314.

Jarrett, R. L., & Coba-Rodriguez, S. (2019). “We ‘Gonna Get on the Same Page: “School readiness perspectives from preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, and low-income, African American mothers of preschoolers. The Journal of Negro Education, 88(1), 17-31. doi: 10.7709/jnegroeducation.88.1.0017

Jarrett, R. L., & Coba-Rodriguez, S (2019). ‘”Whatever I can imagine, we  did It:’ Home-based parental involvement among low-income, African American mothers with preschoolers enrolled in Head Start” Journal of Research in Childhood Education, X(X), 1-20. doi: 10.1080/02568543.2019.1642970

Jarrett, R. L., & Coba-Rodriguez, S. (2018). “If you have a kid that’s ready to learn:” The kindergarten transition experiences of urban, low-income, African American preschoolers. Journal of Poverty. doi: 10.1080/10875549.2018.1555729

Jarrett, R. L., & Coba- Rodriguez, S. (2018). “People and places:” The value qualitative research has for studying African-American families and urban neighborhoods. SAGE Research Methods Cases. doi:10.4135/9781526427410

Villegas*, E., Coba-Rodriguez, S., Wiley, A.R. (2018)1. Continued barriers affecting Hispanic families’ Dietary patterns. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 46(4), 363-380. doi:

Jarrett, R. L., & Coba-Rodriguez, S. (2017). How African American mothers from urban, low-income backgrounds support their children’s kindergarten transition: Qualitative findings. Journal of Early Childhood Education. 1-10. doi:

Jarrett, R. L., & Coba- Rodriguez, S. (2017). “We keep the education goin’ at home all the time:” Family literacy practices in low- income African American families of preschoolers. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 22(2), 57 -76. doi:

Jarrett, R. L., Hamilton, M. B., & Coba-Rodriguez, S. (2015).  “So we could all pitch in:” The family literacy practices of low-income African American mothers of preschoolers. Journal of Communication Disorders, 57, 81-93. doi:

Jarrett, R. L., & Coba- Rodriguez, S. (2015). “My mother didn’t play about education”: Low- income, African American mothers’ early school experiences and their impact on school involvement for preschoolers transitioning to kindergarten. The Journal of Negro Education,84(3),457-472. doi:10.7709/jnegroeducation.84.3.0457

Brooks, D.J, & Coba- Rodriguez, S. (2015). Families in South Africa: The legacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. National Council on Family Relations Report Magazine. Retrieved from truth-and-reco


Ph.D., Human Development and Family Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

M.S., Human and Community Development, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

B.A., Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Licensures and Certifications

Professional Memberships

Research Currently in Progress

Diverse Families and School Readiness Lab

The Diverse Families and School Readiness Lab examines how various environmental contexts (home, schools, neighborhoods) facilitate low-income and racially-linguistically diverse preschoolers transition to kindergarten. Diverse qualitative methodologies are used with the goal of better understanding of how families, early childhood educators, and preschoolers experience this critical milestone. Research conducted in this lab aims to enhance home-school collaborations.

Artistic and Professional Performances and Exhibits

Podcast  - Illinois Learning Project

Diverse Families and the Transition to Kindergarten

Part of the training and technical assistance for the Preschool for All and Prevention Initiative funding for the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).