OVAE: Office of Vocational and Adult Education
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Family Literacy in Adult Education

Research and Evaluation | Noteworthy Practices | Additional Links

Family literacy programs address the intergenerational nature of literacy. Studies have found that a child’s foundation in learning is formed in the first five years before Kindergarten. A child’s learning begins at birth and takes shape as children are nurtured, challenged, and engaged in high-quality learning environments and in quality relationships with their parents and other primary caregivers. The importance of the family is described and defined in Title II of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act.

The President has initiated The Early Learning Challenge Fund [downloadable files] PDF, an initiative that encourages states to create or continue high-quality programs for early childhood learning with results-oriented standards reform of state early learning programs. The U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) will collaborate and administer the two types of funding for this initiative: Quality Pathways Grants and Development Grants.

Research and Evaluation

  • The ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), in its review of research about reading, reports that many schools are creating formalized family literacy programs to serve disadvantaged parents and children. Such programs are designed to reflect the cultural background of the family and encompass all literacy activities that can occur in the home.

  • A National Center for Fathering and the National PTA [downloadable files] PDF study found that a majority of Americans agree that fathers play an important and irreplaceable role in the lives of children.

  • Condition of Education 2006 [downloadable files] PDF provides statistics that show “poor, near-poor, and non-poor children” were more likely to participate in literacy activities in 2005 than in 1993. All children, regardless of poverty status, were more likely to have an adult read to them frequently in 2005 than in 1993.

Noteworthy Practices

  • The Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) and the National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) spotlights how six school districts have used innovative strategies to create and sustain family engagement.

  • Both inmates and their families can achieve positive outcomes when the parental bonds and prerogatives inmates have with their children are preserved. National service programs of the Corporation of National & Community Service provide mentoring, literacy, and youth-development services to the children of incarcerated parents.

  • First Grade at Bowen, Newton Public Schools, Newton, Massachusetts, has developed suggestions that parents can use to help their children develop literacy skills. This Balanced Literacy Program offers lists and explanations about creating a stimulating literacy environment for parents and their children.

Additional Links

  • The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) offers free resources relating to family and children’s activities. One of the publications, Cultivating Readers[downloadable files] PDF , lists suggestions that are age- specific, from birth to ten years old. Most of the resources at NCFL are written in English and in Spanish.

  • A Center for Early Literacy Learning (CELL)[downloadable files] PDF article, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, discusses how preschool and child care teachers can help young children develop early literacy skills by letting them be active participants in reading sessions.

  • Public libraries can be found on a list of most states' Web sites. These libraries are excellent sources for age-specific books, and many libraries have “story hour.” Check with the librarian.

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Last Modified: 10/08/2009