While researching this blog, it became apparent how prevalent family literacy was in my childhood. When I was an infant my parents sat with me for hours reading book after book. As I grew older, they were more than happy to accommodate my thirst for new material and gave me their favorite novels from when they were young. My dad supplied me with the series Dragonriders of Pern and The Belgariad, while my mom gave me her collection of Little House on the Prairie novels. This created a sense of community literacy in my home, where conversation about literature was welcome. Additionally, they introduced me to new authors outside of school. At home, I read illustrated versions of Robert Frost, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Edgar Allan Poe poems. The family literacy I had at home manifested in high CRCT and Lexile test scores in reading and writing and better attention to detail in my other courses.
What is Family Literacy?
Family literacy is a type of literacy education that emphasizes bringing reading and writing into the home and making it a family activity, irrespective of different literacy levels. According to a study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, children with a “richer home literacy environment displayed higher levels of reading knowledge and skills than did their counterparts with less rich home literacy environments.” Family literacy is imperative in creating a foundation for children’s learning experiences. Family literacy is not solely limited to literature. It also incorporates various mediums like puppet shows, finger painting, and show and tells to accommodate different learning styles. A crucial aspect of family literacy is that an emphasis is placed on storytelling and is inclusive of children of all ages.
A type of family literacy is called environmental literacy, where learning and storytelling are derived from a person’s surroundings. Examples of creative mediums of literacy are reading aloud signs at the grocery store or reading numbers and letters on license plates. Family literacy is also grown through teaching moments between older kids and young ones. The older kids learn more because they have to teach the concepts of reading to the younger ones. By successfully teaching their younger counterpart, the older kids become more confident in the material and the younger kids have expanded their literacy. According to expert Lucia Palacios, here are some easy starting points for evolving family literacy in your own home.
- Use everyday activities to help kids learn
- Make the library a regular family destination
- Encourage older kids to share books
- Provide props and materials for dramatic play
Public library reading programs practice family engagement to promote family literacy. Family engagement is “a shared responsibility among families, educators, and communities to support children’s learning and development.” For public libraries, family engagement is a natural next step in supporting children’s learning and development. According to a Kent State University study the children who participate in public library reading programs and practice family literacy experience benefits ranging from frequent school attendance, oral language development, and comprehension improvement. Overall, family literacy is a holistic approach to childhood development of literacy skills that is taught outside the classroom. It is more than reading books, it is teaching children an entirely new way to think about literature.