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The roots of family literacy as an educational method come from the belief that “the parent is the child’s first teacher”. Studies have demonstrated that adults who have a higher level of education tend to not only become productive citizens with enhanced social and economic capacity in society, but their children are more likely to be successful in school. A literate family tends to be stronger family, more likely to remain a wholesome unit.
Comprehensive family literacy services provide a holistic, fully integrated, family-focused approach, providing parents and children most in need of improving their literacy skills with intensive, frequent and long-term educational and non-educational services. Family literacy services make sustainable changes in a family by integrating all of the following activities:
- Adult Education: designed to extend basic academic level, think critically and creatively, solve problems, set and achieve goals, and acquire successful workplace and interpersonal skills.
- Childhood Education: designed to promote the growth and development of young children and to engage parents in their child’s educational program in order to foster meaningful involvement that will be maintained throughout the child’s educational career.
- Parent Education: provides instruction on how children grow, develop, and learn. It addresses issues critical to family well-being, connects parents with community resources, and provides opportunities for parents to network and develop mutual support systems.
- Interactive Parent/Child Activities: provides parents and children the opportunity to share their newly developed literacy experiences. Parents and children interact together, enriching their relationship through reciprocal learning that takes place, enabling them to become true partners in education.
- Adult Education: The goal of educating parents is to empower and provide resources to parents who are a child's first teacher. Adult Education helps to rebuild relationships between parents and the school's faculty and staff. Some classes and activities provided for parents at the Prairie State College Family Literacy Project are English as Second Language classes, Adult Basic Education classes, General Education Development certifications, and vocational training.
- Childhood Education: Helping to involve parents can be done in a child's learning through play groups, sharing stories and books together, and child-directed play time that all help the child to bond with their parents.
- Parent Education: The family literacy program developed in Illinois at the Prairie State Family Literacy Program provides parental support about health issues, good nutrition, discipline, and takes parents and children on field trips to purchase books for children to read at home.
- Interactive Parent/Child Activities: The Prairie State Family Literacy Program has developed a special time for interactive activities that they call "P.A.C.T." time. During this P.A.C.T. time there are play groups that involve both parents and their children working together. They are separated by age groups to help guide the interaction and activities.
- "THE PARENT IS THE CHILD’S FIRST TEACHER: Parent-Participation Therapy Groups". Support, Information, Choices…Making it Happen. Harbor Regional Center. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- Bowen, Howard (1997). Investment in Learning. The Individual and Social Value of American Higher Education. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-5530-6.
- Woessmann, Ludger (March 2004). How Equal are Educational Opportunities? Family Background and Student Achievement in Europe and the US. CESifo Working Paper Series 1162.