Current Areas of Interest in Family Literacy
Volume 3: Chapter Seven
Vivian L. Gadsden
In Chapter Seven, Vivian Gadsden reviews current areas of interest in the growing field of family literacy. She begins by providing a brief history of the development of the field, including definitions of family literacy, and outlines significant research, practice and policy that have led to current efforts in the field. In the second part of the chapter, Gadsden presents areas that have emerged as critical domains of interest to the field of family literacy: parent-child interactions, including emergent literacy; intergenerational literacy; ESOL and language differences; assessment and evaluation; and culture and context. In her description of these areas, the author points out the need for an increased focus on the role of both parents and other family members in children's literacy development, as well as the bi-directionality of literacy, or how children assist adults, in addition to how adults teach children, particularly among families who are not native English speakers. She points to the need for more studies that examine critical issues of language, literacy and culture among a wider range of immigrant groups as well as indigenous minority groups. In addition, Gadsden calls for the development of effective assessment measures that address both outcomes for children and adults, as well as the nature and process of family literacy learning and teaching. The author notes three important areas not included in the chapter because of limited work done on each in the context of family literacy: technology; issues of class, poverty and gender; and professional development. While not covered here, such issues are deemed by Gadsden to be critical to the continued development of the field.
Gadsden concludes the chapter by summarizing persistent challenges to the field of family literacy and areas for strengthening it. While recognizing positive developments in recent decades, she also notes problems, such as the need to deepen our understanding of how children's literacy is affected by interactions with parents and other caregivers. In addition, she points out the absence of critical discussion about adult learning and literacy within the context of family literacy and reciprocity between the two areas of adult literacy and family literacy. As Gadsden sees it, this void represents a missed opportunity to understand what adults learn through family literacy efforts and what this might imply for teaching and research in adult basic education. Finally, the author calls for more progressive and reflexive links between research and practice for the enhancement of both domains.
Vivian Gadsden provides an annotated bibliography of selected resources that cover a range of issues related to the field of family literacy. The list comprises journal articles, chapters, books, papers and reports, with materials drawn from research studies, program reports and reviews, in addition to analyses of federally and state-funded programs and initiatives designed to enhance family literacy activities. The items included are organized around the following topics: parent-child literacy, intergenerational literacy, ESOL and language differences, assessment and evaluation, culture and context. For each resource, Gadsden notes the intended audience (i.e., practitioners, researchers, parents, program developers and/or program directors), as well as the focus of the item. The resources presented focus on a variety of general issues, such as the history of family literacy, program development and evaluation, theories of intergenerational learning, influences of home environments on children's literacy, the relationship between adult and family literacy, culture, and race, as well as specific family literacy programs, including the Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) and Parents as Teachers (PAT).