Family Literacy

Family literacy is based on the belief and related research that students will be more successful in school if their parents prepare and support them. Family literacy was first developed to prepare emergent readers for school success by giving information and activities that parents could use with their children to help support their literacy efforts. During the 1980s, family literacy activities became a part of the ESL curriculum in both adult education ESL programs and K-12. As ESL family literacy programs evolved, it became apparent that schools also needed to learn about the cultures and beliefs of the multicultural communities they were serving. Thus, at least in ESL programs, family literacy is viewed as a two-way process (Auerbach, 1989). Some activities may include having parents and children learn about the U.S. education system and the expectations of their particular school system. Other activities may include having parents read or tell traditional stories to their children, having children read stories to their parents in English or their native language, or having families create videos or Web pages about themselves and their communities.

Strategies of Family Literacy

English Skill Level: All

Grade Level: All

Family literacy can include any number of approaches and activities. The following strategies give some general guidelines.

  • Complete a needs analysis that includes both the perceived needs of the school system as well as the strengths, beliefs, and needs of the community being served. One approach to discover the needs of the community is to meet with local leaders. Another way is to be aware of the concerns of the community that may be expressed in students’ writing or discussions.
  • Develop activities and programs that meet the needs of all concerned, including parents, students, teachers, and other members of the school and community.
  • Assess activities and programs to see if they are really meeting the needs of all concerned and fostering an environment that helps students achieve in school.

Strenghts of Family Literacy

  • Parents and guardians are actively involved in the education of their children.
  • Parents and guardians may participate in shared learning experiences, thus conveying the message to their children that education is valid.

Weaknesses and Modifications of Family Literacy

  • Family literacy programs that come only from the top down may prove unsuccessful if they conflict with the culture and practices of the group being served. Therefore, it is important that family literacy programs include the needs and practices of everyone involved.
  • Individual teachers may not be in the position to create family literacy programs, but they can use some of the activities used in established programs to develop connections between the classroom, students, and parents.