Parent Literacy Impacting Student Reading Success

I’ve been thinking about a topic to investigate all week.  I have been going back and forth between trying to find something that deals with ESL students (as a result of my familiarity and past experiences with this population) and the type of reading students that we have been discussing for this class.  One of the most interesting ways for me to combine these two areas is to look at the relationship that a parent’s literacy ability has on their child’s reading ability later in life.  It seems like a quick and easy answer, right?  If a parent reads to their child, the child will be a better reader.  If a parent doesn’t read to their child, the child will be a failure.  (I hope I’m oversimplifying it here, but that is how a lot of the research comes across.)  However, as we all know, there are plenty of parents who don’t read to their children very often who have children who turn out just fine.  And, in a much sadder scenario (and one that I am more familiar with), there are many parents who try to read to their children because they know that they should, but still find that their children are ending up in remedial reading classes in school.  This happens quite frequently with some of my older ESL students, who do not have strong literacy skills in English but still try to read to their children as often as possible.  Many my students end up frustrated because they struggle through the words on the page and feel that their children are not getting anything out of the process.  The question I want to investigate is how strongly we should make a case for improved literacy classes for parents as a way to increase child reading success.

There has been a great deal of research done on factors that influence literacy, but it seems that many of these studies focus more on the social and economic status of the parent, rather than the language ability.  However, I was able to find a few articles that started exploring other possibilities.  In a few studies, researchers have argued that the education level of the parents influences a child’s success in reading much more than the frequency of reading itself.  That idea made me stop and think for a while.  I’ve always thought that the more a child is read to, the better off they will be, regardless of the education level of the reader.  However, some of the researchers are arguing that the success of a child’s literacy is influenced more by the accuracy of their parents’ reading than the frequency.  They also argue that parents who are unable to teach their children about accuracy and phonemic awareness in english, are more likely to have children with lower literacy skills, even if they read to their children more frequently.  Furthermore, the argument is made that general reading activities, where a story is read to a child without any attention being drawn to the reading process itself, does not really develop letter name and sound knowledge, phonological sensitivity, or receptive vocabulary.  As a result, parents who have lower literacy skills and are simply trying to share the ideas in the story with their children are less likely to be able to give direct instruct on these skills, which will, again, lead to lower reading ability for the children.

Hopefully, after I investigate this issue much more, I start to think of ways to help my students learn the literay skills they need to help their children be successful readers later in life.

Possible Reading List

    • Evans, Mary A; Shaw, Deborah; & Bell, Michelle (2000) – Home Literacy Activities and Their Influence on Early Literacy Skills
    • Roberts, Joanne; Jurgens, Julia; & Burchinal, Margaret (2005) – The Role of Home Literacy Practices in Preschool Children’s Language and Emergent Literacy Skills

    • Senechal, Monique: & LeFevre, Jo-Anne (2002) – Parental Involvement in the Development of Children’s Reading Skill:  A Five-Year Longitudinal Study

    • Sénéchal, Monique; LeFevre, Jo-Anne; Thomas, Eleanor M. & Daley, Karen E. (1998) – Differential Effects of Home Literacy Experiences on the Development of Oral and Written Language


One response to “Parent Literacy Impacting Student Reading Success

  1. This is a great topic, Amy — I’m sure you’ll find the articles you need in order to pursue this topic. I like that you’re trying to bring together information on parents’ literacy based on their language ability rather than their SES or education. I’ll have to dig into my memory banks for the reference, but there’s an old piece of research that says the one factor that predicts a child’s level of literacy is the number of books the *child* owns. Of course that implies a whole set of attitudes and beliefs that would impel parents to buy children books — I look forward to reading your findings!

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