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Resources on Family Literacy

Volume 3
Vivian L. Gadsden

The resources listed here represent a small core of available materials on family literacy, intended to provide the reader with a short profile of the kinds of issues discussed in the field. The materials have been drawn primarily from research studies, reports and reviews of programs, and analyses of federally and state-funded programs and initiatives designed to enhance family literacy activities. These resources, however, do not constitute an exhaustive annotated bibliography. There are several other fine articles, reports, and books that would have been included if this were a comprehensive rather than a selected listing of materials on family literacy.

Resources that are cited were identified through the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), the Psychological Literature database, the sociology database, and the social work resource database, using keywords such as family literacy, family learning, parent-child literacy, emergent reading, intergenerational literacy, adult literacy, and family support. A separate search of the literature on English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) outside family literacy was not conducted. Books were located by means of a Library of Congress search using the same keywords as those used to search the databases, and bibliographies in those books were reviewed to identify additional citations. Also consulted were materials from Even Start, Head Start, and the National Center for Family Literacy, as well as federally contracted studies written by a variety of researchers.

There are two other points of information that should guide the reader. First, the headings used to group materials reflect the existing and dominant areas in the field and were chosen by me based upon my review of bibliographies, reports, and discussions with specialists. A resource was assigned one heading versus another if its primary focus appeared to fall under that heading. However, some features of the resource may be equally appropriate for other headings and some may well have been placed under another heading (for example, parent-child interaction and emergent literacy) and cross-listed, had that format been used for this publication. Second, several terms related to family literacy are used throughout this annotated bibliography to refer to relevant concepts and programs. Distinctions between these terms are often minimal, but two bear clarification: family literacy program and family literacy intervention. A family literacy program as defined here is a program that has been designed and implemented to respond to identified reading, writing, and other literacy problems facing children, their parents, and other family members. Family literacy programs and related activities may be located in schools, community-based programs, and similar learning settings. They may be supported through state funding or may be part of national initiatives such as Even Start. Family literacy interventions are typically part of a research study designed to focus on a particular literacy issue or to determine whether specific approaches or frameworks result in change for program participants. Interventions are often intended to test a new strategy or approach to literacy instruction or program development.

The scope of family literacy research and practice is broad, and background issues in the field are often overlooked or superficially addressed in research and program reports. The selections in this section are intended to highlight many of the debates and resulting themes evident in discussions of family literacy over the past ten years that have led to the educational approaches now in use. The articles, reports, and reviews here will provide readers with a critical perspective on past and present tensions in the field.

Auerbach, E. (1995). Deconstructing the discourse of strengths in family literacy. Journal of Reading Behavior, 27, 643661.

Focus: Program development

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, researchers

Auerbach puts family literacy programs into three broad categories based on their theoretical underpinnings. The first category, intervention/prevention, draws from the theory that America's literacy problems are the result of "uneducated parents" who do not value literacy and do not promote it in interactions with their children at home. Programs based on this approach are geared toward changing parental beliefs about literacy and parents' interactions with their children regarding literacy activities. The second category, multiple literacies, is derived from the idea that the literacy problems of children and parents stem from a cultural "mismatch" between literacy practices at home and at school. The curricula in these programs draw from students' cultural experiences at home. The third category, social change, is based on the theory that the literacy problems of "marginalized" individuals are a by-product of social, political, and economic issues operating in the larger society. Programs developed from this perspective focus on helping students to change the forces that contribute to the marginalization of certain groups and to reduce their own marginalization.

Gadsden, V. L. (1994). Understanding family literacy: Conceptual issues facing the field. Teachers College Record, 96, 5886.

Focus: Conceptual issues in the research and practice of family literacy

Recommended audience: Policymakers, practitioners, researchers

Although the relative absence of universally accepted theoretical frameworks in the field of family literacy makes it difficult to develop long-term agendas for change, it does give literacy educators the opportunity to participate in the construction of these frameworks. This article reviews the status of work in family literacy and suggests pathways that family literacy research and practice should take to build a framework and set of goals that link relevant areas of literacy education and family services. The author argues that because theory and practice in family literacy are relatively new, both existing and emerging assumptions as to what works and what does not must be tested as program developers determine programs' missions, implement curricula and instruction, and assess progress. Such assessment would involve the following: (1) exploring the idea of the family as the mediator of learning-as likely to support as to obstruct literacy development; (2) focusing on program goals in relationship to family expectations, that is, practitioners examining their goals for learners vis vis learners' and families' goals; (3) understanding the family as a developing and changing unit, changing as individual family members develop and as they come to (re)shape family practices; (4) utilizing knowledge about the cultural and social practices within families and determining how such knowledge can be applied to curricula, instructional content, and classroom interactions; and (5) finding a midpoint between the perspective that casts learners as lacking in literacy and creating obstacles to children's school success and the perspective that casts them as possessing literacy knowledge that can serve as a basis for teaching. The article draws from research in family literacy, literacy, and family studies and provides recommendations for research, practice, and policy.

Hendrix, S. (2000). Family literacy education: Panacea or false promise? Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 43, 338346.

Focus: Program development

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, researchers

The author offers a critique of family literacy programs on four fronts, starting with the compensatory program model, which is described as an effort "to make up" for some lack of knowledge in the family. This model assumes that family literacy programs help children and parents overcome their limited, or inadequate, literacy and does not seek to understand the literacy knowledge that the family does possess and on which programs can build. Next is the one-child/one-parent model, in which one parent and one child, usually a preschooler, are the focus and older children and other family members who contribute to the child's literacy development are largely excluded from the learning process. Another area of discussion concerns the difficulty of integrating different areas of literacy (such as adult literacy and ESOL) into a coherent framework for family literacy programming. The fourth area of discussion concerns the instability of funding for family literacy programs and the ways in which this prohibits the future growth of the field. Hendrix asserts that the instability of funding is due in large part to the "adjunct" status of family literacy programs as compared with K12 and adult literacy initiatives.

Morrow, L. M., Tracey, D. H., & Maxwell, C. M. (Eds.). (1995). A survey of family literacy in the United States. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Focus: Historical overview of family literacy

Recommended audience: Practitioners, researchers

In addition to tracing the historical development of family literacy, the authors provide an overview of the field in the United States. More than one hundred sources on family literacy are discussed, with information provided on particular existing family literacy programs as well as new initiatives. Sections include "Intergenerational Programs," "Research on Naturally Occurring Literacy in Families," and "Agencies and Associations that Deal with Family Literacy."

National Center for Family Literacy. (1993). The future of family literacy. Louisville, KY: Author.

Focus: Conceptual overview

Recommended audience: Policymakers, program directors

This book traces the history of family literacy as a concept, as a beginning program, and as a public policy movement. The authors show state policymakers and program managers how to anticipate and grapple with issues surrounding family literacy. They suggest how individuals can begin new family literacy programs tailored to their communities.

Wasik, B. (Ed.). (2001). Summary of research on Even Start. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Focus: Summary of issues in family literacy programming

Recommended audience: Practitioners, researchers

This report was prepared to examine and synthesize research pertaining to family literacy programs, particularly those supported by Even Start initiatives. Ten chapters are included in the book, the first of which provides an overview of family literacy programs. Subsequent chapters focus on program content (for example, emergent literacy culture and family literacy, English as a second language), programmatic issues (for example, the role of family literacy programs in service integration and local and state evaluation efforts), and recommendations for program improvement and future research.

Work on parent-child literacy has for more than a decade aimed to uncover the specific interactions that parents and children experience as children learn to read, write, and develop other types of literacy. Federally funded centers such as the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading and Achievement at the University of Michigan reinforce the significance of early readiness and the role of parents and other family members in the development of literacy in children. The resources in this section concern the effect of home practices on children's reading, ways to help young parents participate in the selection and use of children's literature to teach their children to read, and activities that program developers might use to engage parents and children in reading and other literacy activities. These selections reflect the diversity of issues in early and emergent literacy and parent-child interaction, from implementation of programs to research findings.

Journal Articles

Baker, L., Scher, D., & Mackler, K. (1997). Home and family influences on motivations for reading. Educational Psychologist, 32, 6982.

Focus: Influences of home environment on children's literacy

Recommended audience: Parents, practitioners, researchers

The authors review the growing literature on home and family influences on children's motivation to read. Topics covered include the nature of children's early encounters with literacy, their self-initiated interactions with print at home, shared storybook reading, and parental attitudes toward reading.

Doneson, S. G. (1991). Reading as a second chance: Teen mothers and children's books. Journal of Reading, 35, 220223.

Focus: Use of reading materials relative to teen mothers' life situations

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program directors

Doneson describes a literacy program for pregnant and parenting high school students. The program's goals were to encourage reading by providing teens with books and magazines on parenting as well as with books they could read to their children. The program also provided the teens with an outlet for discussion of their personal issues and problems. By the end of the program, the class had formed a cohesive unit in which students could discuss both parenting and personal issues.

Primavera, J. (2000). Enhancing family competence through literacy activities. Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, 20, 85101.

Focus: Program efficacy

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, program directors, researchers

Primavera reports on the positive benefits for parents and their young children of parental participation in family literacy activities. The participants were one hundred parent attendees at several family literacy workshops designed to teach them literacy skills to improve their children's school readiness and emergent literacy skills. The positive outcomes for children included increased reading time spent with parents, improved language skills, increased interest in books, and increased enjoyment in reading. Benefits for parents included increased self-esteem, confidence, literacy competence, parental efficacy, and interest in their own education as well as a better understanding of the important role parents play in their children's education.

Books and Parts of Books

National Center for Family Literacy. (1996). Frontiers in family learning: A showcase of exemplary family literacy programs. Louisville, KY: Author.

Focus: Successful family literacy programs

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, program directors

This report identifies four programs nationally recognized as leaders in family literacy by the National Diffusion Network, an agency within the U.S. Department of Education: (1) Literacy Volunteers of America-Chippewa Valley, Eau Claire, Wisconsin; (2) Even Start Project, Manhattan/Ogden and Junction City/Fort Riley, Kansas; (3) Webster Groves Even Start, Rock Hill, Missouri; and (4) Family Intergenerational Literacy Model (FILM), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The report discusses the funding, organization, and activities of the programs, and is divided into eight sections: (1) introduction to family literacy; (2) two routes to program validation; (3) program profiles; (4) essential components of family literacy; (5) community involvement; (6) special features of the programs; (7) meeting learners' needs; and (8) resources for family literacy.

Rodriguez-Brown, F. V., & Meehan, M. A. (1998). Family literacy and adult education: Project FLAME. In M. C. Smith (Ed.), Literacy for the twenty-first century: Research, policy, practices, and the National Adult Literacy Survey. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Focus: Adult literacy and its relationship to family literacy

Recommended audience: Practitioners, policymakers, researchers

In this chapter, the authors argue that family literacy is a component of parent involvement in which parents model problem solving for their children and establish literacy practices in the family. They examine parental involvement and family literacy by focusing on Hispanic communities and the ways that the cultural history and background of family literacy participants should be allowed to shape the nature and content of instruction, curricula, and classroom interactions between practitioners and learners.

Intergenerational literacy research and practice focus on the ways in which parents and other adult family members influence children's literacy development and the ways in which children assist their parents in learning to read. The studies and reports included here focus on programs designed for two or more generations within a family, adult literacy programs that focus on families, and research that has implications for developing approaches that increase the strength of knowledge transfer from one generation to another.

Journal Articles

Baker, A.J.L., Piotrkowski, C. S., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (1998). The effects of the Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) on children's school performance at the end of the program and one year later. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 13, 571588.

Focus: Efficacy of the HIPPY program

Recommended audience: Practitioners and program directors, especially those who use the HIPPY program

The Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters is a two-year home-based early childhood education intervention program intended to help parents with limited formal education prepare their children for school. The participants in this longitudinal study, which is part of a larger evaluation study of the program, were 182 low-income families (84 in the intervention, 98 in the control group). There were two cohorts of pre-kindergartners: one entering the program in winter 1990 and the other entering in fall 1991. The outcomes assessed were children's cognitive skills, adaptation to the classroom, and standardized achievement at the end of the first year (kindergarten) and during first grade. The findings showed that there were significant differences between the HIPPY participants and the control group children (for example, children in the HIPPY program had higher scores on the cognitive measure; at the one-year follow-up, children in the HIPPY program had higher standardized reading scores) at both assessment times. However, the positive results for children in Cohort 1 were not found for children in Cohort 2 who were exposed to the same program. The authors are cautious about the reasons that children in Cohort 2 did not have the same positive results as those in Cohort 1 but suggest that outside of program features, we should examine the nature of parental involvement and the way parents are prepared to participate in such programs.

Goldsmith, E. (1995). Deepening the conversations. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 38(7), 558563.

Focus: Program development

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, researchers

Goldsmith discusses how children's literature can be used in family literacy programs to help adults reflect on their educational experiences and relationships with their children and to stimulate discussion between parents and teachers. The author draws from her experiences conducting workshops with participants in the Parent Readers Program (New York City) as well as her work with day care and Head Start teachers from Reading Starts with Us (NYC) and with adult literacy teachers and students from across the United States. She uses two children's books to frame her discussion.

Hill, M. H. (1998). Teen fathers learn the power of literacy for their children. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 42, 196202.

Focus: The significance of literacy for adolescent fathers and their children

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, program directors, researchers

This article describes a case study of a practitioner in a juvenile residential facility who worked to engage young fathers in a literacy classroom of peers, using literature from a range of genres. The author argues the importance of stimulating an interest in reading and literature in young fathers if they are to identify with being readers, writers, and storytellers and to pass along literacy to their children. The article describes three themes of the program discussion and readings-the bully (meanness); embarrassing moments; and anxiety, competition, and fear-each taken from the participants' experiences as boys, each covered in relevant literature, and each having relevance to the messages of survival and caring that the young fathers convey when reading to their children and encouraging their children to read.

Moulton, M., & Holmes, V. L. (1995). An adult learns to read: A family affair. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 38, 542549.

Focus: Family involvement and the development of adult literacy

Recommended audience: Practitioners, researchers

The authors use a case study approach to explore the influence of a family's literacy interactions on all family members. The focus is Len, a forty-seven-year-old father and grandfather who is learning to read. After he invited his family to participate in his reading activities, his reading improved and the frequency and nature of the family's interactions changed: some family members cut out relevant newspaper articles; Len participated more actively in oral reading during the family's religious evenings; Len's expectations for his son's reading increased; and Len and his children helped each other with their homework. The authors remind family literacy specialists that family literacy both strengthens and challenges relationships in families. For example, despite the success that Len experienced, the changes in Len's literacy and motivations to read affected the family, with the family sometimes interfering with and other times facilitating the process.

Quintero, E., & Cristina-Velarde, M. (1990). Intergenerational literacy: A developmental, bilingual approach. Young Children, 45, 1015.

Focus: Program development

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, researchers

This study describes the development and implementation of the El Paso Community College's Intergenerational Literacy Project. The project brings Spanish-speaking parents and their children together in the classroom in an effort to improve the two groups' literacy skills in both English and Spanish. The authors describe the curriculum as well as the nature of teacher and parent involvement, the questions they posed, and the knowledge they brought to the program. The results of the study suggest that the parents' English reading level increased and that their attitudes and behaviors toward assisting their children with reading improved after participating in the program.

Reutzel, D., & Fawson, P. (1990). "Traveling Tales": Connecting parents and children through writing. Reading Teacher, 44, 222227.

Focus: Program development for parents and children

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, researchers

The authors report on a program they created in which children bring home a "Traveling Tales" backpack filled with materials for the children to use while writing stories at home with their parents. A list of basic guidelines for parents is included in the backpack to help children to generate story ideas and drafts. Parents are telephoned before children take the backpacks home, and there is a resident "grandmother" in the class who works with those children whose parents do not want to participate. The authors found that the program elicited involvement not only from parents but also from children's siblings and neighbors.

Smith, S. (1991). Two-generation program models: A new intervention strategy. Social Policy Report: Society for Research in Child Development, 5, 115.

Focus: Effects of five intervention models on welfare-dependent women with young children

Recommended audience: Policymakers, practitioners, program developers, researchers

The author describes five programs intended to help welfare-dependent women with young children attain economic self-sufficiency through education and job training while also providing services that foster the healthy development of their children, such as parenting education and high-quality childcare. Two of the models were linked with the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills program, one with the Comprehensive Child Development Program, one with New Chance, and one with Even Start. Related research efforts assessed the effects of participation on parent employment and child development. The author makes recommendations on how to evaluate the effectiveness of two-generation interventions based on systematic variation of family types, interdisciplinary collaboration, assessment of component services, and federal provision of policy guidance, standards, and resources.

Wagner, M., & Clayton, S. (1999). The Parents as Teachers program: Results from two demonstrations. Future of Children, 9, 91115.

Focus: Description and evaluation of the Parents as Teachers program

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, researchers

The authors describe Parents as Teachers (PAT), a parent education program that includes home visits from PAT-trained parenting and literacy practitioners. The authors report the results of an evaluation of two demonstration projects, one with a largely adult, Latino population and a second with teen mothers with two randomized trials of PAT participants. Results from the study suggest that home visits produced about a one-month developmental advantage per ten visits for participating children.

Books and Parts of Books
Gadsden, V. L. (2000). Intergenerational literacy within families. In M. L. Kamil, P. B. Mosenthal, P. D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. 4, pp. 871887). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Focus: Theories of intergenerational learning

Recommended audience: Researchers, practitioners

The author uses an interdisciplinary approach to explore conceptual and theoretical issues in intergenerational literacy, including (1) the degree to which reading research deepens our understanding of the social, cultural, and gender factors that influence literacy within and across different generations; (2) the extent to which reading research utilizes interdisciplinary knowledge about intergenerational learning within families; and (3) the ways in which reading research can advance the construction of integrative frameworks that capture the nature and mode of transmission of literacy in diverse populations. Although the focus of this chapter is on families, the author works from the assumption that intergenerational literacy is not exclusive to families but may involve a variety of individuals other than biological family members and a variety of contexts other than the family or home.

Neuman, S. B. (2000). Social contexts for literacy development: A family literacy program. In K. A. Roskos & J. F. Christie (Eds.), Play and literacy in early childhood: Research from multiple perspectives (pp. 153168). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Focus: Practices of adult and family literacy programs

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, program directors

The author describes an intervention program designed to improve guided participation and coaching among adolescent, urban, low-income mothers and their children. The thirty mothers were participants in an adult basic education and graduate equivalency program that offered day care for their children. The program focused on four basic components: (1) getting set, in which caregivers adjust their level of involvement to the level of perceived competence of the child; (2) giving meaning, in which caregivers share with children the importance of the literacy activities and interaction; (3) building bridges through real and imaginary play; and (4) stepping back, in which the parent or other adult teacher provides encouragement while allowing the child to demonstrate mastery of the recently learned materials. Data on mothers' ability to engage children throughout the four components were collected and analyzed. Findings demonstrate the significance of interpersonal communication and instructional setting in engaging young children and helping them transfer knowledge from one point in time to another.


Papers and Reports

Connors-Tadros, L. (1995, October). Participation in adult education and its effects on home literacy. [Report No. 32]. Baltimore: Center on Families, Communities, Schools, and Children's Learning, Johns Hopkins University.

Focus: Adult literacy education

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers and directors, researchers

The author describes parent participation in and completion of adult basic education courses and the importance of determining the impact of such participation on selected indicators of home support for children's learning. For this purpose, the researcher completed multiple analyses on data from a subsample of 815 families surveyed in the 1991 National Household Education Survey. The findings showed that parents participate in adult education programs primarily for job-related skill improvement (for their current job or future jobs). Other predictors included prior education, minority status, and experiences related to their children's childcare. Children's daily television viewing was also predicted by parents' participation in adult education.

Matthias, M., & Gulley, B. (Eds.). (1995). Celebrating family literacy through intergenerational programming. Wheaton, MD: Association for Childhood Education International.

Focus: How to facilitate improvement in intergenerational literacy

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, program directors

The authors examine ways in which parents can increase their involvement in their children's literacy development, focusing on the parental role as a child's first teacher. The paper is divided into four parts. Part 1 gives background information on intergenerational family literacy programs, Part 2 describes three family literacy programs that emphasize parents' and children's interactions around literacy, Part 3 explores family literacy in multicultural communities, and Part 4 focuses on methods practitioners can use to encourage parent-child interactions around literacy.

Issues related to language and linguistic differences, particularly English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), are slowly being integrated into family literacy discussions. However, to date, there are relatively few written analyses and even fewer empirical studies in this area. The articles and reports in this section represent a small collection of curricular resources and empirical and evaluation research. They focus both on the social and cognitive processes of family literacy and on the importance of these processes in developing and providing instructional support for learners representing diverse non-English language histories and linguistic experiences.

Journal Article
Shanahan, T., Mulhern, M., & Rodriguez-Brown, F. (1995). Project FLAME: Lessons learned from a family literacy program for linguistic minority families. Reading Teacher, 48, 586593.

Focus: Multilingual program development

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, researchers

Project FLAME is a Chicago-based family literacy program designed to provide simultaneous education for Latino parents and their children. The authors describe how the "parents as teachers" and ESOL components of the program are connected, how to construct a family literacy curriculum, what language should be used for literacy instruction, and what happens in the community when the program ends. Although the study was reported prior to the end of the program, data from the program showed that parents, after two years of participation, were taking part in parent-school organizations and activities. The parents reported reading stories to their children, and many came to lead Parents as Teachers seminars in local schools. The authors suggest that family literacy programs can be carried out at lower cost when parents are prepared to become trainers. In this way, they ensure the stability of the program while increasing the self-sufficiency of their families and communities.

Papers and Reports

Nash, A., Caston, A., Rhum, M., McGrail, L., & Gomez-Sanford, R. (1992). Talking shop: A curriculum sourcebook for participatory adult ESL. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics

Focus: Curriculum for participatory ESOL programs.

Recommended audience: ESOL practitioners and program directors; family literacy programs that operate in a bilingual or multilingual environment.

This is a collection of narratives by five teachers who worked in community-based adult education programs in the Boston area. The curriculum for the programs was based on a participatory approach that stressed the daily concerns and learning needs of the students. Topics covered include immigrant experiences, mother-child relationships in terms of ESOL curriculum and parental involvement in children's learning, and pedagogical techniques and approaches to literacy.

Weinstein, G. (1998, June). Family and intergenerational literacy in multilingual communities. Washington, DC: National Center for ESL Literacy Education.

Focus: Family literacy models and approaches

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, program directors, researchers

Weinstein reviews selected research in the field of family and intergenerational literacy, beginning with the early findings of emergent literacy research that led to the creation of many family literacy programs (for example, that parents' literacy skills and practices influence their children's performance in school) and concluding with language and literacy research with nonnative speakers of English. The author also includes brief discussions of policy initiatives that have had an effect on the field, family literacy program models, and curriculum approaches. Weinstein offers several suggestions for future work in the area of family and intergenerational literacy research for nonnative speakers of English.
Much of the work in family literacy has focused on curriculum and instruction, with relatively less attention to assessment and evaluation. The selections here focus on approaches to assessment and the content of measures to assess learning in family literacy programs. Because as yet, little has been written about family literacy assessment, these selections omit an issue that has received considerable attention in K12 education: linking curricular content to appropriate assessment.

Books and Parts of Books
Holt, D. D. (Ed.). (1994). Assessing success in family literacy projects: Alternative approaches to assessment and evaluation. McHenry, IL: Delta Systems.

Focus: Program assessment and evaluation

Recommended audience: Practitioners and researchers

Holt discusses alternatives to traditional methods of evaluating family literacy programs. The author clarifies the difference between standardized and alternative assessments and highlights special considerations for the evaluation of family literacy projects. Each of the five chapters covers a different aspect of assessment and evaluation to help program personnel design and implement appropriate alternative approaches to assessment.

Ryan, K., Geissler, B., & Knell, S. (1994). Evaluating family literacy programs: Tales from the field. In D. K. Dickinson (Ed.), Bridges to literacy: Children, families, and schools (pp. 236264). Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

Focus: Program assessment and evaluation

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, researchers

The authors discuss an ongoing assessment of family literacy programs in Illinois, using a five-tiered approach to program evaluation and case studies to illustrate how evaluation can occur at each of these tiers. They suggest that programs should base their evaluations on the literacy and learning needs identified by both parents and service providers. The authors note the recurrent finding that men's viewpoints are grossly underrepresented in most evaluations of literacy programs, even when they are active participants, and that male participation in adult literacy programs is extremely low. 


Debruin-Parecki, A. (1998). The identification of effective practices and the development of authentic assessments for family literacy programs. Doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan. Dissertation Abstracts International, 58, 10-A.

Focus: Program assessment

Recommended audience: Researchers, practitioners

The research for this dissertation was conducted at a family literacy program site in Michigan. Two studies were conducted. In the first, the Adult/Child Interactive Reading Inventory was used to evaluate parent-child interaction during storybook reading. In the second, a family portfolio assessment system was used to evaluate aspects of the program that might not be captured by standardized tests.

Until recently, writings in family literacy rarely accounted for the significance of culture and race in family literacy other than by making reference to the ethnic background of learners. As the terms are used here, culture refers to the traditions, beliefs, and practices that groups develop over time, and context refers to the settings in which people live and learn-settings that represent the individual and combined influences of people's ethnicity, culture, and race as well as the value they assign to them. Family literacy programs are populated disproportionately by low-income, ethnic minority, or immigrant children and families. The selections here represent a few of the writings to have emerged over the past few years.

Journal Articles

Elish-Piper, L. (1997). Literacy and their lives: Four low-income families enrolled in a summer family literacy program. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 40, 256268.

Focus: Case studies demonstrating the effects of an intensive enrichment program

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, researchers

This article reports the activities of four families participating in a summer family literacy program. The author details the families' uses for and degrees of literacy, which "is viewed as a social and cultural phenomenon that develops and is practiced in the context of social interactions for social purposes" (p. 257). Program activities included weekly sessions with families and the "exploration of literacy through environmental print materials including newspapers, coupons, telephone books, and television guides" (p. 258). The author found that the participating families used literacy for meaningful purposes and that the social-contextual factors of the families "greatly influenced how and why they used literacy in their lives" (p. 264). The author recommends that such programs be expanded to cover the academic school year.

Tippeconnic, J. W., III, & Jones, P. (1995). A description of Family and Child Education (FACE): A comprehensive approach to family literacy. Journal of American Indian Education, 35, 69.

Focus: Culture-specific program development

Recommended audience: Practitioners, researchers, program developers

Family and Child Education (FACE) is a program specially designed to help American Indian parents and their children. Supported by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, the program provides home-based or center-based early childhood education for infants and children up to the age of five. The program teaches parents about child development and shows them how to promote active learning in their children. Additionally, it addresses parents' educational needs. In 199495, twenty-two FACE programs served 951 families.

Books and Parts of Books

Gadsden, V. L. (2001). Family literacy and culture. In B. Wasik (Ed.), Synthesis of research on family literacy programs. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Focus: Culture and race

Recommended audience: Policymakers, practitioners, program developers, researchers

In this chapter, the author focuses on family literacy and culture as a way to understand, study, and work with diverse families. The chapter includes sections on historical contexts of reading that led to greater attention to the diversity, culture, and families of students and on definitions of culture and race and their relationship to family literacy. The author highlights programmatic approaches to instruction and curricular development, drawing on case studies with two Even Start literacy programs located in the Midwest and the South.

Weinstein-Shr, G., & Quintero, E. (Eds.). (1995). Immigrant learners and their families. McHenry, IL: Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems Co.

Focus: Cultural differences in the nature of intergenerational learning and literacy

Recommended audience: Practitioners, program developers, researchers

This resource is a collection of teachers' and developers' descriptions of intergenerational literacy programs for immigrants. Intergenerational learning is strongly emphasized. The topics addressed include student journals, traditional and personal storytelling as an approach to developing literacy, improving educational options, and the experiences of learners who are refugees.

Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL