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Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy Releases Independent Evaluation of Family Literacy Programs

Tallahassee, Fla. – In honor of National Family Literacy Day, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy is releasing an independent evaluation of its family literacy programs. Findings on these two-generation programs indicate positive impacts on educational outcomes for both parents and children, as well as unanticipated increases in parenting skills.

The Barbara Bush Foundation’s two-generational family literacy programs require intensive involvement, with participation two to four days a week by the entire family. The programs provide parents and their young children the opportunity to attend school together. Adults take classes that target reading, math, and parenting skills, including English-language skills for non-native speakers and GED preparation, while their children build early literacy and communication skills that help prepare them for academic success. Activities support child literacy education and promote reading as a family experience, helping caregivers make reading an engaging part of daily life that benefits everyone in the home.

The study followed 20 family literacy programs across eight states, engaging more than 700 parents and children. Among adult participants, more than 57 percent were Hispanic, 33 percent had an eighth grade education or less, and 72 percent had an annual income of $20,000 or less. More than 40 percent reported having fewer than 10 children’s books in their homes.

The evaluation was overseen by Dr. Craig A. Mason, professor of Education and Applied Quantitative Methods from the University of Maine. His conclusion states, “the Barbara Bush Foundation family literacy programs had significant, meaningful impacts on families. For adults and caregivers, this was seen in improvements in basic education skills valuable for daily life and work settings. For children, this reflected increased receptive and expressive language skills and decreased communication and expressive language concerns.”

Key findings regarding learning outcomes include:

  • Adults participating in basic education classes achieved a 1.1 grade-level increase in reading skills over the course of the nine-month program.
  • Adult English language learners fared even better, achieving a 1.24 grade-level increase.
  • There was a 41 percent reduction in the number of children between six and 24 months old who warranted further monitoring for communication impairment.
  • There was a 32 percent reduction in the number of children over the age of two whose vocabulary skills were at the very lowest levels.

In addition to achieving impressive academic gains, adult participants reported feeling more confident as a parent (98.6 percent), better able to evaluate their child’s progress in school (96 percent) and more aware of what is expected by their child’s school (89.9 percent). This powerful combination of academic and socio-emotional development is at the heart of the two-generation approach to learning, which equips parents to provide critical support for their children’s learning.

“This analysis of 20 programs across the U.S. underscores the value of two-generation programming,” said Liza McFadden, president and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation. “There are now decades of research illustrating the importance of early literacy, going all the way back to the landmark study in language acquisition conducted by Betty Hart and Todd Risley of the University of Kansas in the 1960s. This research now adds to that body of work by considering the value of the parent — even those with low literacy skills themselves — in the long-term acquisition of literacy. We are most pleased to see that gains in literacy skills result in increased parental involvement.”

About the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy: The Barbara Bush Foundation is the nation’s leading advocate for family literacy. The Foundation was established by Mrs. Barbara Bush in 1989, and today is a public charity that aspires to achieve a vision of fostering the opportunity for every man, woman and child to secure a better life through literacy. Learn more about the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy’s commitment to promote family literacy in homes across America at www.barbarabush.org or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter (@BarbaraBushFdn).


Get in Touch

You may also contact us by phone at 850.562.5300 or by mail at:
Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy
516 North Adams Street • Tallahassee, Florida 32301