OVAE: Office of Vocational and Adult Education
   Current Section
Family Literacy

What are Family Literacy Programs?
Family literacy refers to a continuum of programs that addresses the intergenerational nature of literacy. Under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, Title II of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, family literacy programs integrate (1) interactive literacy activities between parent and child; (2) training in parenting activities; (3) literacy training that leads to economic self-sufficiency; (4) age appropriate education to prepare children for success in school and life experiences.

The essence of family literacy is that parents are supported as the first teachers of their children. Programs work with individuals as well as with the family unit. While family literacy programs provide developmental experiences for young children, their parents are offered instruction in parenting skills and parental support to change patterns of family interaction. Some programs build the literacy skills of parents and extend learning opportunities to include pre-employment and employment skills. Instructional approaches are modified appropriately to respond to the variety of cultures within each program. Family literacy programs vary from one community to another as each program works to meet the needs of the participants and the community as well.

Who Participates in Family Literacy Programs?
Participants in family literacy programs usually include children, single parents, or another close family member. In most programs, the term parent refers to anyone fulfilling the responsibilities usually associated with the parent of a child or children over a sustained period of time. Family literacy programs are often found as an integral component of larger adult education programs, while other family literacy services are offered as a separate program under adult education auspices.

While many parents and their children participate in adult education programs that include a family literacy segment, there are additional families who participate in other federal programs within the U.S. Department of Education, such as the Even Start Family Literacy program and Title I of the Improving America's Schools Act. Still other participants may be found in Head Start programs under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' funding.

Why Should Parents Become Involved?
Emerging research studies assert that children's motivation to succeed in school is influenced by the educational achievement of their parents. Cognitive science research stresses the impact of the family and social environment on cognitive development and literacy acquisition of children. Parental involvement in their children's schools influences student achievement, attendance, motivation, self concept and behavior. Parents who read to their children, have books in their home, exhibit a positive attitude toward school and establish high achievement goals for their children tend to have higher achievers than parents who do not. Adults who have not mastered the basic skills cannot model appropriate literacy behavior and often pass on to their children the attitudes and abilities that keep them from breaking the cycle of illiteracy.


For Additional Information, Contact:
Division of Adult Education and Literacy
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-7240
(fax) 202.205.8973

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Last Modified: 10/16/2007