Frequently Asked Questions
What is family literacy?
Why is family literacy important?
Why does Massachusetts need family literacy?
Who benefits from family literacy?
Who provides family literacy?
How can I help start family literacy in my community?
1. What is family literacy?
Family literacy is a family education model which helps break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy by improving the educational opportunities of families. Family literacy builds on the strengths and addresses the needs of parents and their children. The Massachusetts Family Literacy Consortium defines family literacy as coordinated learning among different generations in the same family which helps both adults and children reach their full personal, social, and economic potential.
Many family literacy models exist, ranging from simple family literacy activities such as parents and children reading together to comprehensive family literacy programs. A comprehensive family literacy program often includes components such as:
Age appropriate education for children
Parents and children learning together (PACT)
Home visits to reinforce learning at home
In Massachusetts, Head Start and early childhood programs, Adult and Community Learning Services, Title I, libraries, and private funders provide family literacy programs.
2. Why is family literacy important?
The power of family literacy programs lies in the fact that they are intergenerational. Parents want their children to succeed in school and will actively support their children's success. However, far too many parents are unable to provide such support because they themselves lack the skills.
While family literacy improves the skills and educational level of parents and their children, it also improves the parenting and life skills of adults. Families learn to work together more effectively, and parents become more responsive to their children. The learning environment in the home is enriched as enthusiasm for learning grows within the family unit. Family members support each other, contributing to each person's success and leading to family success.
3. Why does Massachusetts need family literacy?
More than 2 million adults (44%) do not have functional English literacy skills or the basic abilities expected of a high school graduate.
Some 465,000 of these adults are undereducated or limited English proficient parents with children under 13 years of age who are in need of literacy services for both their children and themselves.
Children in approximately 114,000 families have a parent who cannot read aloud to them.
Children in approximately 264,000 families have parents who can read at a basic level but have difficulty helping their children with homework.
4. Who benefits from family literacy?
Children benefit. They demonstrate greater gains in vocabulary, literacy, logic, math, and other skills than children in child-focused programs. They are more likely to be successful in school right through high school graduation and less likely to be exposed to health risks or live in poverty.
Adults benefit. They improve their basic educational and job skills and are enabled to make self-identified changes in their lives that help them fulfill their personal goals. Parents whose first language is not English acquire communication skills to support their relationships with their children, school staff, co-workers, employers, and the community at large.
Schools benefit. Parents become full partners in their children's education through increased communication with school staff and active participation in school activities. They gain the skills they need to reinforce their children's school learning in the home.
Businesses and communities benefit. More educated parents are better prepared to enter the workforce and meet the performance requirements of today's businesses. As parents develop the skills they need in the context of their roles as parents, workers, and citizens, they become active contributors to their communities.
Promise of Family Literacy
Children living in homes with parents who have not completed high school and are unemployed are five to six times more likely to drop out of school than other children.
Family literacy enables parents to improve their skills to be more effective in their role as their children's first and most important teacher and enhance the value placed upon education within the family.
High school dropouts are twice as likely to be unemployed and, when employed, earn only half of a high school graduate's salary.
Family literacy provides parents with the basic educational and job skills they need to complete a high school diploma and participate effectively in the workforce.
Nearly one half of all heads of households receiving public assistance have not finished high school.
Family literacy reduces dependency on public assistance and significantly increases employment.
The most reliable indicator of family health is the educational level of the mother.
Family literacy provides opportunities for parents to learn about child development, good health, and proper nutrition.
5. Who provides family literacy?
Any group with a mission of meeting the educational needs of adults and children in the context of the family can provide family literacy. In Massachusetts, Head Start and early childhood programs , Adult and Community Learning Services, Title I, libraries, and private funders provide family literacy.
Typically, programs are established through a collaboration of adult education, age appropriate education for children, and family support service providers, as well as libraries, community agencies, and businesses, to offer a comprehensive array of integrated family-centered services that assist the family as a unit.
6. How can I help start family literacy in my community?
You can take some initial steps in your community:
Inventory resources and potential partners invested in the well-being of families.
Develop a vision and mission statement that reflects a shared commitment to working in partnership to serve the multiple needs of families.
Visit Resources for additional information.
Please address any questions or comments to MFLC@doe.mass.edu
Last Updated: September 15, 2002