The Role of Family Literacy in Society

Authored by: Barbara Hanna Wasik , Barbara Van Horn

Handbook of Family Literacy

Print publication date:  April  2012
Online publication date:  August  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415884570
eBook ISBN: 9780203841495
Adobe ISBN: 9781136899126


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The intergenerational transfer of literacy has intrigued educators, researchers, and policy makers, and served as a fundamental rationale of family literacy programs. Children who come into the world without language learn one of thousands of languages, depending upon the family into which they are born. Not only does the family determine the child’s early language, but a family’s culture, beliefs, and traditions also influence the way children use words for discourse (Heath, 1983). Their family’s literacy levels also influence whether children develop strong language skills as well as reading and writing skills. Some parents provide a strong foundation for language and literacy at home, having many print materials available and modeling the use of reading, writing, and math in daily life. Other families communicate primarily through oral language, with storytelling being an important way to share family or cultural history. Regardless of a family’s desires for their children’s success, some parents, especially those with limited literacy skills or formal education, do not have the knowledge or skills needed to adequately support their children’s early language and literacy development. As a result, these children often struggle with and do not master school-related literacy skills, putting them at a lifelong disadvantage related to educational outcomes, future employability, and social and health status.

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