Literacy skills that children develop in the early years of education are crucial to their success in other academic areas. Previous research has shown that children whose language and reading skills do not develop as expected have a higher chance of failing in school, developing subpar social and emotional skills, and even later substance use (Dennis & Horn, 2011). With this in mind, each year the children in the first-grade classroom at Edison Elementary work toward building strong literacy skills that will propel them through their academics and into their careers. In order to best support this development, parent involvement is critical.
Moving forward, a discussion of the available literature will unfold. This review will focus on the use of take-home literacy bags as a way to encourage parental involvement in the development of first-grade literacy skills. Two other strategies that will also be consider are, parent-child book sharing during home routines, and parent-child library book reading. With these strategies in mind, the review of the literature will serve as a strong support of the valuable relationship between parental involvement and early literacy development.
School and Classroom Context
This literature review will focus on first grade students at Edison Elementary in the Mesa Public Schools District. I am not currently in a classroom, but a fellow teacher works here as a first-grade teacher. As of the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, Edison has 695 students enrolled in grades K-6. Of this 695, 83 students make up the first-grade classrooms. 24 percent of the first-grade classes identify as Caucasian, and 64 percent identify as Hispanic. With this in mind, the school is predominately Hispanic (59 percent of students). This is followed by Caucasian students at 27 percent (MPS Demographics, 2018). Of these 695 students, 24 percent reportedly come from single-parent families, 60 percent speak English as their first language, and nearly 80 percent are eligible for free and reduced lunch. As of 2018, 38 teachers are employed to teach the 695 students. Reports also show that, in 2018, 32 percent of these teachers are relatively new to the job with less than three years of teaching experience. With this in mind, though none of these teachers have emergency credentials. Rather, they are fully equipped with the necessary certifications to work in the classroom (MPS Demographics, 2018).
As previously stated, students who identify as Hispanic make up nearly 60 percent of the school population. Approximately 40 percent of the families that attend here speak another language other than English at home. In addition, about 84 percent of the students who attend Edison are eligible for the free and reduced lunch program (MPS Demographics, 2018). With so many families in lower socioeconomic statuses, Mesa Public Schools strives to provide ample opportunities to engage parents in their children’s education. For example, they host over 100 free courses throughout the year in their Parent University program. Here, parents can sign up for classes that cover a wide range of topics. These include things like positive parenting skills, navigating the world of education, and navigating through the digital age with children. As a title one school, Edison focuses on engaging parents through regular meetings to give academic updates and provide tools to encourage the educational connection between school and home (MPS Parent University, 2018).
Edison Elementary’s test scores appear on par with other schools in Mesa. The AzMERIT, which helps determine the letter grade that schools receive as well as any additional funding, is taken by students in third through sixth grade, DIBELS is taken by all students, and grades one and two take the district Criterion Referenced Test (CRTs). AzMERIT scores for third through sixth grade show that 22 percent of these children tested as passing on ELA and 34 percent tested as passing on mathematics. Compared to the statewide results, Edison came in below. It was reported that 41 percent of Arizona students passed both the math and ELA sections of the test. Specific data for first grade students is unavailable at this time (AZ Report Cards, 2018).
This literature review serves the purpose of exploring three different instructional strategies, used to engage parents and children, that will increase the development of literacy skills in first grade students. These three strategies include the following home reading practices, parent-child shared book reading during home routines, parent-child library book reading, and teacher made take-home book bags.
Over the years, research has looked at the benefits and costs of parental involvement in education. Further, the current research focuses on parental involvement defined as consistent parental engagement with their children in areas such as communication, volunteering, at home education, and community involvement (Jeynes, 2017). With this in mind, a current meta-analysis of the research found that there is a positive relationship between parental involvement and academic success for Latino families. This success does not diminish after elementary school, though. In fact, it shows to extend through the beginning of the college years (Jeynes, 2017). For this reason, a closer look at the short- and long-term benefits of parental involvement in education is needed. The following discussion will highlight what research has found, particularly concerning the relationship between literacy development and parental involvement.
First, several studies have found a positive relationship between reading aloud to children and test scores that are higher than those of children who were read to less often (Ledger & Merga, 2018). Further, the research suggests that overtime, these children develop a wider vocabulary, show a deeper understanding, at an earlier age, of conversational skills, and the ability to comprehend language and texts. These literacy skills not only effect how well children do in language arts but can also help them better comprehend and work through other academic areas such as math (Ledger & Merga, 2018).
Clearly, early exposure to reading and print is indicative of literacy achievement down the road. For this reason, many teachers are creating ways to encourage families to engage in at home reading time with their children. For one, parent involvement is key in literacy development. The use of activities, like take home literacy bags, are a great way to support language and literacy development (Zeece & Wallace, 2009). Lastly, research is showing time and again that literacy, and all it encompasses, is key in bettering educational outcomes and creating positive societal achievements (Zeece & Wallace, 2009).
Research has found that the parental attitudes and knowledge surrounding literacy, and its many parts, have a direct connection to how their children will view reading and writing in school (Yeo, Ong, & Ng, 2014). In addition, children need the support of their parents in the early years to build a strong foundation for their future. Parental support can look like many different things. For example, it includes working on literacy-based activities together (games that involve word play, writing, and reading), and talking together using language that is at and above the child’s current ability. In addition, parental support also includes the beliefs they have about who is responsible for teaching their child to speak, write, and read. Research suggest that parents who feel this is their responsibility provide their children with richer literacy opportunities. This belief also effects the value they place on literacy skills (Yeo, Ong, & Ng, 2014).
Parental support does not need to include expensive supplies or fancy activities. In fact, shared book reading alone has shown to be linked to the development of a wide vocabulary, and literacy-based achievements in later school years (Meyer et al., 2016). Research on parental involvement also focuses on the home literacy environment. This is created by the presence of support, access to materials, and parent-child attitudes towards literacy activities. Research has found a link between parental beliefs and attitudes toward literacy and positive social and emotional outcomes for children (Merga & Ledger, 2018). Though these families found time to be tight in their schedules, they still reported reading with their children for enjoyment, relaxation, and to teach and learn (Merga & Ledger, 2018). Together, these beliefs, put into action, create a home literacy environment.
First, an in depth look at the current literature and the findings as they relate parental involvement to literacy development. These include teacher created take-home literacy bags, parent-child shared book reading during home routines, and parent-child library book reading. Each strategy will be examined through the lens of current literature and the outcomes those studies presented. These findings will provide a better understanding of the impact parental involvement has on literacy development in young children. After, the implications of the research will be discussed as they relate to future classroom use and support.
Parent-child book sharing within home routines is characterized by time spent, within the home, reading books of all genres together. How children and parents interact during these shared literacy activities is important to the positive outcomes that are desired. Research has shown that high levels of parental warmth, praise, and proximity, of the parent and child, is related to literacy growth in young learners (Bergin, 2001).
Over the years many studies have looked into these benefits and how parent and child book reading impacts later development and academic success (Bergin, 2001; Hale, Berger, LeBourgeois, & Brooks-Gunn, 2011; & Baker, Mackler, Sonnenschein & Serpell). This particular strategy has shown to have many benefits when implemented. These include regular parent-child bonding time. Research has shown that children, with a secure attachment parental attachment, are more likely to be willing to engage with literacy-based academia, particularly with the text, than their peers with poorer parental attachments (Bergin, 2001). Additionally, A warm, secure parent-child relationship was found to be correlated to a child’s ability to persist and their willingness to complete cognitive-based tasks (Bergin, 2001). Lastly, time spent regularly reading with a parent showed these children to have more positive feelings toward literature and higher rates of academic success in reading and writing (Bergin, 2001).