The vital role played by parents, grandparents and other care-givers in their children’s education at all stages is gaining recognition. As a result, there is a growing need to support those parents who may wish to improve their own literacy skills and confidence in the context of family life and learning.
Family literacy work can help to overcome the barriers to learning felt by some adults and children who find it difficult to relate to school learning. It is an important way of recognising and building on the strengths of families and communities who feel marginalised or excluded from the expectations of school.
By encouraging both informal and formal learning and by giving support to learning at home, family literacy approaches contribute to the development of literacy and learning for all age groups. Family literacy work brings new learners into adult literacy and community education programmes and is a key element in developing lifelong learning opportunities for all.
In Ireland family literacy programmes have developed in conjunction with the adult literacy service, schools, libraries and community projects since the early 1990s. Courses vary according to the context and the learners involved.
The following principles are recommended as a basis for the development of family literacy and numeracy programmes:
- The family is the first and primary educator of children and the home is the child’s first and primary literacy resource.
- Family literacy work respects the difference between the various ways in which literacy and numeracy are developed and used within the home and in school.
- Family literacy work recognisesthat learning in families is a two-way process, as the adults in the family often learn from the children and young people.
- Family literacy programmesare developed through discussion with the participants. Listening to families is at the heart of the process.
- Family literacy work respects the right of families to protect their privacy and separateness.