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Structured Family Literacy Programs

Family literacy intervention programs are increasing, and most of them focus on teaching parents and children to participate in family storybook reading, the practice most likely to help children achieve success in school (Paratore, 2002). Even Start, the largest federally funded family literacy program in the United States, enables low-income families to participate in parenting education and adult basic education.

While learning how to help their young children develop language and literacy skills, many parents increase their own proficiency. Ninety percent or more of the sites offer reading, storytelling, prereading activities, language development activities, and work with letters and numbers (Paratore, 2002).

Not only is it important for parents to read to their children, but it is important for them to know how to read most effectively (Tabors, Snow, & Dickinson, 2001). Many parents are uncertain about what they should do or say when reading aloud. At one Even Start site, researchers videotaped parents as they read one-on-one with their own children. This tape was copied and distributed widely to other centers in the region that worked with family literacy.

A variety of formal family literacy programs exist to help parents support their children's growth in language and literacy. Project FLAME (Shanahan, Mulhern, & Rodriguez-Brown, cited in Paratore, 2002) offers literacy training to parents with limited English proficiency to enable them to help their children's literacy learning. The project focuses on teaching school-based literacy behaviors, but also considers the cultural knowledge that each family brings. The Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development (Snow, Tabors, & Dickinson, 2001) investigated the preschool and home literacy environments of preschool and kindergarten children from low-income families.

Researchers found that the home environment contributes significantly to positive outcomes for young learners, that preschool factors lead to even greater positive outcomes, and that home and school interact in producing outcomes (Tabors, Snow, & Dickinson, 2001). The U.S. National Center for Family Literacy brings children and parents together to play and learn. It emphasizes literacy activities for both home and school (Thomas, Fazio, & Stiefelmeyer, 1999). Regardless of the type of family literacy program, whether it be informal or structured, families play an important role in developing a young child's language and literacy skills.

By B.D. Roe|E.P. Ross - Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall -

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