Weber State University Family Literacy ProgramIntroduction
The Weber State University Family Literacy Program is a Partnership between the Department of Child and Family Studies at Weber State University and the (see the news story here)Glasmann Family Literacy Endowment, The Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership (Head Start), The Elizabeth Stewart Treehouse Museum, Deseret Industries, The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, and UBS USA Bank. The program is offered to both Spanish and English speaking families. The program was recently featured by KSL TV News as an effective program promoting literacy among children and families
The major focus of the Weber State University Family Literacy Program is to mentor and educate the parents of Head Start children so as to engage in literacy activities with their children. The vast majority of participants (over 94%) come from lower income backgrounds and over 75% identified themselves as Latino or Hispanic. The program provides education and mentoring on parental discipline and appropriate child guidance strategies. The program goes beyond what is traditionally done at Head Start which operates an early childhood education program.
In 1989, Weber State University received an endowment from the Glasmann Foundation to establish a project to enhance family literacy. The project was called the WSU-Standard Examiner Family Literacy Project. A partnership between Ogden City School District and the WSU Family Literacy project received a federal grant for "Project Even Start." This was the federal effort to address family literacy. Due to federal budget cuts, the Even Start Project was ended in June of 2007. The new partnership was initiated in August of 2007.
Previous research has identified four major benefits of family literacy programs: 1) children benefit through higher levels of literacy and academic achievement; 2) parents benefit through literacy development and parenting skills; 3) families benefit through greater emotional closeness and involvement in education; 4) society benefits through positively affecting health, nutrition, unemployment, poverty, and reduced risk-behaviors (Padak & Rasinki, 2000).
The program teaches parents culturally appropriate parenting strategies, focusing on daily literacy activities, visiting educational centers (i.e., library, Treehouse Museum), reducing punitive parenting practices, and increasing positive family interactions. These activities between parent and child lead to the development of additional benefits beyond emergent literacy skills including increased positive self-concept, self-regulation, social competence, better communication skills, and prosocial peer networks.
Results show major improvements in the parent’s daily literacy activities with their children and in the child's literacy abilities. Specifically, significant increases were identified in engaging with children in reading, storytelling, rhyming activities, letter and word identification, and many other literacy activities. Correspondingly, significant improvements were identified in the child’s literacy activities, including reading, involvement with reading a story with a parent, and independent reading. Parenting behaviors were also impacted in that significant gains were found in the establishment of routines, contributing to family work, appropriate limit setting, consequences for behaviors, and most importantly creating a special time for reading each day.