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Study points to need for family literacy programs|
By Jeff Deitrich
| President George W. Bush has made his education slogan No Child Left Behind part of the nations vernacular. Family literacy experts nationwide are asking how that goal can be accomplished while so many childrens parents cannot read well.|
President Bushs education initiative, called No Child Left Behind, focuses on making sure that all children read on grade level, Barbara Van Horn, author of the study on Pennsylvanias Family Literacy Programs, said. Unfortunately, many parents skills are limited. This initiative should be expanded to include those parents, perhaps calling it No One Left Behind.
Van Horn noted that adults who are not proficient readers need help, as well. Not only do parents gain from increased literacy skills, but their children also benefit. They learn by example and through practice with their parents.
The Penn State study showed that long-term family literacy program participants read more often to their children and that their children read more often on their own as a fun activity. Likewise, children read to their parents more often. Children in family literacy programs also scored higher on developmental tests than a control group of children who did not participate.
The findings support Pennsylvanias Family Literacy initiatives, spearheaded by the Governors Office. Pennsylvania now has family literacy programs in all 67 countiesone of the largest statewide family literacy initiatives in the United States. These community-based programs serve an estimated 2,000 adults and 3,000 children each year.
Support for the concept of family literacy is growing nationwide. The federal government last year put its support behind the idea of family, rather than individual, literacy programs by making a one-time federal appropriation of $6 million to establish an endowment creating the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy at Penn State.
Dr. Eunice N. Askov, Distinguished Professor of Education and co-director of the Goodling Institute, said, The mission of the institute is to improve family literacy education through research and its application to practice and policy. To that end, we are focusing our efforts on identifying research issues, in consultation with practitioners and researchers, to develop a national family literacy research agenda. The goal is to conduct research, such as Barbara Van Horns study, and compile research studies to move the field of family literacy forward.
Van Horn, co-director of the Goodling Institute, added, Family literacy programs are important, because they serve the hardest to reach populations.
The benefits of reaching adults, as well as children, also have business applications.
Other studies have shown that a more literate workforce is good for business, too, Van Horn noted. Industries whose employees have gone through workplace literacy programs have shown higher production, lower costs due to injuries on the job and better compliance with OSHA regulations.