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Massachusetts Family Literacy Consortium
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Summary of Implications of Key Findings from the Family Literacy Review

This document provides a bulleted summary of the implications of the findings from 27 research studies. These research studies are described in the Family Literacy Review Matrix. One third of the studies are treatment/comparison group studies, one-third are meta-analyses of existing research, and one-third are descriptive studies.

The 27 studies presented in the Family Literacy Review Matrix were sorted into five areas: family literacy, adult education, home visits, early childhood education, interactive literacy, parenting education and English language learners. Six of the studies (22%) fell into the general category of family literacy, seven (26%) in adult education, one in home visits, five (18%) in early childhood education, six (22%) in interactive literacy, one in parenting education, and one in English language learners.

In the following summary, parenting education and interactive literacy implications are combined into one area. The study on English language learners is integrated into the adult education and early childhood areas.

Area: Family Literacy

Program Design

  • Offer classes during the day, evening and weekends-preferably 6 days per week.
  • Make classes and activities accessible-ideally within one mile of family's homes.
  • Provide daily opportunities for adults and children to reflect on their own literacy practices.
  • Enroll children in high quality, full day, language/print-rich programs.
  • Broaden the scope of impact from looking solely at family outcomes to include instructor, program and community change.

Recruitment, Orientation & Intake

  • Tailor recruitment practices to language, culture and interests of the target populations.
  • Use successful recruitment strategies such as:
    • personal contact and media advertising
    • current or former students as recruitment spokespeople
    • home visits
    • one-to-one conversations to help potential participants make the connection between goals and educational services.
  • Devote ample time during orientation for adults to explore options that best meet the needs of their family rather than orienting them to a pre-determined limited set of options.
  • Provide potential enrollees with information necessary to make choices.
  • Work with families to create and implement Family Action Plans (FAP) and to develop goals based on their literacy knowledge, expectations and needs.
  • Use strategies to improve retention-progress monitoring, celebrations and flexible options for participation.
  • Offer:
    • Abundant and planned access to community resources
    • Seamless coordination with public school programs
    • Ways for parents to advocate on behalf of their children and to access available community services
  • Provide counseling to address issues that interfere with learning and persistence, give information about education and career opportunities, assess aptitude and interest, maintain motivation to attend and refer families to outside resources.
  • Integrate counseling into recruitment, staff training, instructional design and evaluation.

Area: Adult Education

  • Create cultural environments that reflect the following characteristics:
    • knowledge of cultural and social practices within families
    • values (openness, non threatening, take risks, make mistakes, importance of learning, warm and comfortable atmosphere, holistic, informal, challenging, enjoyable, humor)
    • cooperative emphasis (help each other)
    • collaboration (learner-centered, shared responsibility, shared decision making, work together)
    • respect (trust, treat with dignity)
    • supportiveness (caring, encouraging, listening, appreciating feelings, accepting)
  • Provide a minimum 6 hours of instruction weekly but aim for 15 hours a week over a minimum of 40 weeks yearly.
  • Differentiate instruction based on existing literacy practices used by families, authentic and informal assessment and shared dialogue.
  • Routinely schedule time for adults and staff to identify ways to use existing knowledge and practices and assessment results to create meaningful learning opportunities.
  • Minimize mixed ability grouping.
  • Create a classroom community where adults work in small groups and actively participate in the learning decision-making process.
  • Increase staff proficiency in sequencing, using and designing curriculum and in adjusting/pacing curricula based on observed changes in learner needs or progress.
  • Differentiate activities based on family circumstances. Provide options.
  • Systematically monitor family's participation and engagement in the program.
  • Broaden the design of adult literacy programs to include a range of learning options and resources including self-study, attending classes and working with a tutor or mentor.
  • Use project-based learning where content of the curriculum is drawn from the social context of students and literacy is developed while researching and solving problems.
  • Adopt an empowerment philosophy and break down patterns of social isolation.
  • Address the multiple aspects of the reading process including alphabetics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
  • Base student assignments on clearly defined student needs.
  • Form partnerships with institutions of higher education and work with these institutions to design transition programs that build skills for academic study as well as for the adult roles of work, family and citizenship.
  • Provide explicit instruction in reading comprehension strategies and teach comprehension across content areas.
  • Use systematic progress monitoring to track students' learning progress, identify student's needs, design stronger instructional programs, and achieve better outcomes.

Area: Childhood Education

  • Provide extended or full day programs.
  • Create high-quality classroom environments including a developmentally appropriate curriculum with an emphasis on emergent literacy, early math skills, and structured/unstructured play, in addition to addressing the social-emotional needs.
  • Arrange classrooms for active engagement including centers for dramatic play, investigation and creative expression.
  • Use materials that accommodate children with disabilities, promote action and interaction, reflect the lives of children and a diverse society, and encourage experimentation and discovery.
  • Schedule daily opportunities for children to write or dictate ideas.
  • Provide daily opportunities for children to enter into social groups; learn skills to regulate emotions and behavior; develop friendships: and learn to follow directions and ask for assistance.
  • Create an inviting library area, stocked with at least five books per child, two to three per child on display at one time.
  • Provide many opportunities for children to read-independently, in groups, with a partner-and listen to books read aloud.
  • Offer shared reading experiences; guided reading groups & reading theatre.
  • Expose children to many different kinds of texts such as fiction, non-fiction, poetry and songs to experience the rhyme and rhythm of language.
  • Repeatedly practice working with letters and their sounds.
  • Integrate reading for meaning into the daily routines including recognizing sequences, cause and effect, summarizing main ideas and identifying characters and settings.
  • Observe and document children's work, play, behaviors, and interactions to assess progress and plan curriculum.
  • Engage in conversations with children to elicit language and use language samples to understand needs and progress.
  • Conduct progress monitoring at least three times yearly.
  • Use aassessment results to set goals, guide curriculum planning, monitor children's progress and differentiate instruction.

Area: Parenting Education and Interactive Literacy

  • Offer intentional instruction/support to parents to facilitate child's reading and school readiness skills.
  • Facilitate parent's use of typical family routines to introduce and reinforce vocabulary and extend conversations.
  • Instruct parents on "how" to read books with children and ways to extend concepts and vocabulary from books read into every day family routines and activities.
  • Help parents establish reading routines, support their children in completing homework assignments, use instructional materials from school and provide a space at home conducive to children's study and literacy development.
  • Increase parent's use of print to communicate with their children and to work with children to create lists, write letters, describe events, express feelings and write creatively.
  • Use interactive literacy time to work individually with parents on skills based on individual needs, preferences and learning styles.
  • Target "increasing interactions" as the primary goal for Interactive Literacy (IL) sessions.
  • Link IL activities to school learning.
  • Find ways to increase parent responsibility for monitoring their progress and the progress of their children.
  • Engage parents in self-reflecting on ways they support children during IL sessions, to identify missed opportunities and plan ways to look for and address these opportunities both at home and in future IL sessions.
  • Build opportunities for parents to demonstrate, model and practice strategies.
  • Expand breadth and access to parent-child literacy activities including online resources and building on parent's existing knowledge and interests.
  • Strengthen links with public school programs. Work with parents to understand what is expected of them by their child's teacher and why it is important for them to maintain open communication with the school.
  • Provide parents with skills, support, and encouragement needed to partner with their child's teacher to increase children's school readiness and academic success.

Area: Home Visits

  • Explore the implications of the research findings that suggest the benefits of home visiting on children's school success are modest in magnitude.
  • Use home visits to support families to:
    • Increase availability and use of literacy and print-rich materials with children
    • Use observe children and offer positive and insightful comments when describing what children do
    • Increase and maintain conversations and active interactions with children
    • Use appropriate guiding techniques to support learning: model, demonstrate, lead, observe.

Last Updated: February 6, 2013
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