Family literacy work can help to overcome the barriers to learning felt by some adults and children who find it difficult to relate to school learning. It is an important way of recognising and building on the strengths of families and communities who feel marginalised or excluded from the expectations of school.
By encouraging both informal and formal learning and by giving support to learning at home, family literacy approaches contribute to the development of literacy and learning for all age groups. Family literacy work brings new learners into adult literacy and community education programmes and is a key element in developing lifelong learning opportunities for all.
In Ireland family literacy programmes have developed in conjunction with the adult literacy service, schools, libraries and community projects since the early 1990s. Courses vary according to the context and the learners involved.
The following principles are recommended as a basis for the development of family literacy and numeracy programmes:
- The family is the first and primary educator of children and the home is the child’s first and primary literacy resource.
- Family literacy work respects the difference between the various ways in which literacy and numeracy are developed and used within the home and in school.
- Family literacy work recognises that learning in families is a two-way process, as the adults in the family often learn from the children and young people.
- Family literacy programmes are developed through discussion with the participants. Listening to families is at the heart of the process.
- Family literacy work respects the right of families to protect their privacy and separateness.
Supporting parents, supporting children
The role of parents in the development of their children’s literacy cannot be overemphasised. However not every parent finds it easy to help their child develop and learn.