Articles in support of ESL Family Literacy Programming

Hi, all.

I received an email today from a graduate student who wants to advocate for the establishment of an ESL lifeskills class for parents with children in public schools. This activity is part of a master's project she is wokring on. She anticipates  that the curriculum would include the  language and cultural skills parents need to help their children be successful in school as well as language around topics such as parent-school communication, helping children with homework, filling out forms, parent teacher conferences, etc.

She's asking for published articles that support this type of progamming. She didn't mention peer-reviewed journals, but I imagine those would be her first choice.

So, if anyone knows of any articles and would like to share the URL or bibilitographic informaton for these articles in this space, it would be most welcome. Thanks.



HI Miriam,

Lien Stobbe and Ellen Colpaert's article called 'Parents in (inter)action' describes a program like this run in Antwerp, Belgium.  The article was included in the LESLLA conference proceedings (peer reviewed) for 2008, and can be accessed at


Hello Miriam and all, The Harvard Family Involvement Network of Educators website features publications and research articles related to parents' engagement in their children's education. One can also find bibliographies of research articles, including dissertations on topics related to family engagement.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Hello Susan,

Thanks for this suggestion. I went to the Harvard FINE web site and did an advance search using "family literacy," then "intergenerational literacy," then "two-generation literacy". There was only one resource, "Family Literacy, A Review of Programs and Critical Perspectives." This suggests to me that family involvement researchers may not know or care about parents who cannot read to their children because they cannot read, or at least not in English. I wonder if my cursory look is actually reflective of a dearth of research, or if there are studies that look at an intergenerational or two-generation approach to family involvement for parents who themselves need to learn to read English. Susan or Miriam, your thoughts? Others thoughts?

David J. Rosen


One report that may be of interest is the July 2013 "Diverse Children: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration in
America’s New Non-Majority Generation," by Donald J. Hernandez at Hunter College and the City University of New York, and Jeffrey S. Napierala at the University at Albany State University of New York. It was published by the Foundation for Child Development. I learned about this report in a great intergenerational webinar recently hosted by The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), that included Dr. Hernandez as one of the speakers. The webinar may be archived.

In the report, the authors write: "This requires policies and programs that provide non-English speaking parents — immigrant and non-immigrant alike — with accessible, effective programs to improve their English literacy skills. Improved English language skills increase the capacity of parents to find work that enables their families to escape poverty and to communicate effectively with teachers and other adults who also seek to foster the well-being and development of their children." (page 4)

There is also a terrific (but as far as I know, unpublished) 2007 report by Katherine Magnuson, at the University of Wisconson-Madison, entitled "Investing in the adult workforce: An opportunity to improve children’s life chances."  Here's a paragraph from that report, especially the last sentence:

"One reason why parents, particularly disadvantaged mothers, may return to school is that they realize how difficult it is to provide for their family working low-skill, low-wage jobs.[16] Further education and training holds the promise of a better life for themselves and their children.[17 ]Yet does such education lead to better opportunities for their children? Furstenberg, Brooks-Gunn, and Morgan’s research with poor, black adolescent mothers and their children in Baltimore provides a compelling portrait of the possible benefits.[18] As the children grew up, some fared well, whereas others did not. One key predictor of whether these children had good outcomes was whether their mothers persisted in their schooling or returned to school later in life. If mothers completed more schooling, their children were less likely to drop out of high school or to become teen parents."

Hope these are helpful.

David J. Rosen

Hello all, Thank you David for posting the "Diverse Children" report, which, by the way, is available as a pdf here Every fall for the past 11 years, I have been teaching a graduate course at the University of Pennsylvania on "Adult Literacy." We devote part of the course to family literacy and engagement. I will add this report to the course syllabus.. I'm also interested in the CLASP webinar.

You asked about additional resources. .Anything written by our beautiful and dearly missed colleague Gail Weinstein is something family literacy folks can draw upon to learn how to effectively approach family literacy programming with immigrant families including Stories to Tell Our Children and Immigrant learners and their families: Literacy to connect the generations. Another useful resource is the bilingual website Colorin Colorado  The Reading Rockets site also has many family literacy resources in various languages for parents

Many resources target pre-school and K12 educators, but I have found many of the issues are also quite relevant to adult and family literacy teachers as well. Books I would recommend, some of which I would consider classics, include 

  • Ferlazzo, L. & Hammond, L. (2009). Building parent engagement in schools. Santa Barbara, CA: Linworth.
  • Henderson, A. T., Mapp, K. L., Johnson, V. R., & Davies, D. (2007). Beyond the bake sale: The essential guide to family-school partnerships. NY: The New Press.
  • Purcell-Gates, V. (1995). Other people’s words: The cycle of low literacy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Taylor, D. (Ed.) (1997). Many families, many literacies: An international declaration of principles. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Taylor, D. & Dorsey-Gaines, C. (1988). Growing up literate:  Learning from inner-city families. Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann.
  • Weiss, H. & Lopez, M. E., Kreider, H. & Chatman-Nelson, C. (2014) Preparing educators to engage families: Case studies using an ecological systems framework, Third Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

I did a quick EBSCO search and came up with some recent articles that may be relevant on this topic, too There is a lot of research on parent family engagement/involvement and much of it does touch on immigrant families. The education of the adults in the family is usually not the primary focus of these studies, but rather they are looking at how to help adult family members to support their children's literacy and language development. It would be great to see more studies that focus on the value of adult learning on children's learning within a family literacy context.

  • Areepattamannil, S., & Lee, D. L. (2014). Linking Immigrant Parents’ Educational Expectations and Aspirations to Their Children's School Performance. Journal Of Genetic Psychology, 175(1), 51-57. doi:10.1080/00221325.2013.799061
  • Baker, C. E. (2013). Fathers' and Mothers' Home Literacy Involvement and Children's Cognitive and Social Emotional Development: Implications for Family Literacy Programs. Applied Developmental Science, 17(4), 184-197. doi:10.1080/10888691.2013.836034
  • Cattanach, J. (2013). Support parents to improve student learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 94(6), 20-25.
  • Chaney, C. (2014). Bridging the Gap: Promoting Intergenerational Family Literacy among Low-Income, African American Families. Journal Of Negro Education, 83(1), 29-48.
  • Compton-Lilly, C., Rogers, R., & Lewis, T. Y. (2012). Analyzing Epistemological Considerations Related to Diversity: An Integrative Critical Literature Review of Family Literacy Scholarship. Reading Research Quarterly, 47(1), 33-60. doi:10.1002/RRQ.009
  • Chik, A. (2014). English Language Teaching Apps: Positioning Parents and Young Learners. Changing English: Studies In Culture & Education, 21(3), 252-260. doi:10.1080/1358684X.2014.929285
  • Cooper, P., Vally, Z., Cooper, H., Radford, T., Sharples, A., Tomlinson, M., & Murray, L. (2014). Promoting Mother-Infant Book Sharing and Infant Attention and Language Development in an Impoverished South African Population: A Pilot Study. Early Childhood Education Journal, 42(2), 143-152. doi:10.1007/s10643-013-0591-8
  • Friedrich, N., Anderson, J., & Morrison, F. (2014). Culturally appropriate pedagogy in a bilingual family literacy programme. Literacy, 48(2), 72-79. doi:10.1111/lit.12029
  • Peercy, M., Martin-Beltran, M., & Daniel, S. M. (2013). Learning together: Creating a community of practice to support English language learner literacy. Language, Culture & Curriculum, 26(3), 284-299. doi:10.1080/07908318.2013.849720
  • Naiditch, F. (2013). Cross the street to a new world. Phi Delta Kappan, 94(6), 26-29.
  • Quiroz, B., & Dixon, L. (2012). Mother–child interactions during shared literacy activities: Education in a fractured bilingual environment. Journal Of Early Childhood Literacy, 12(2), 139-175. doi:10.1177/1468798411425666
  • Rivera, L., & Lavan, N. (2012). Family Literacy Practices and Parental Involvement of Latin American Immigrant Mothers. Journal Of Latinos & Education, 11(4), 247-259. doi:10.1080/15348431.2012.715500
  • Rowe, D., & Fain, J. (2013). The Family Backpack Project: Responding to Dual-Language Texts through Family Journals. Language Arts, 90(6), 402-416.
  • Skibbe, L. E., Bindman, S. W., Hindman, A. H., Aram, D., & Morrison, F. J. (2013). Longitudinal Relations Between Parental Writing Support and Preschoolers' Language and Literacy Skills. Reading Research Quarterly, 48(4), 387-401. doi:10.1002/rrq.55
  • Smith, P. H., & Murillo, L. A. (2012). Researching transfronterizo literacies in Texas border colonias. International Journal Of Bilingual Education & Bilingualism, 15(6), 635-651. doi:10.1080/13670050.2012.699945
  • Stewart, M. (2013). Giving Voice to Valeria's Story: Support, Value, and Agency for Immigrant Adolescents. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 57(1), 42-50. doi:10.1002/jaal.217

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Thanks, Susan,  David, and Theresa, for the wealth of resources you took the time to put  toghether for this discussion.The next time someone says "Where's the research on the value of family literacy?" I'll have a great library to pull from.