VERIZON FAMILY LITERACY PARTNERSHIP
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Dr. Vishna Herrity
CO-PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Dr. Margarita Gonzalez
GRADUATE STUDENT RESEARCHER: Julie Nguyen
The Verizon Family Literacy Partnership Program is a joint partnership between the Goleta Union School District, the University of California, Santa Barbara Gevirtz Research Center, Isla Vista Youth Projects, and the Verizon Foundation. The program offers integrated and targeted services that focus on the multiple literacy needs of families in Isla Vista. It is an academic preparation initiative that builds on existing relationships among school, community, and university partners to provide a value-added family literacy program that includes adult English language development, computer training, supportive educational training for parents, school readiness for toddlers and pre-school children, tutoring by parents, and parent involvement in schools. The project is intergenerational, comprehensive, and responsive to individual family needs.
The project has three main program components: The Community Based English Tutoring Program (CBET) for parents, the School Readiness Program for children ages 2-4 years old (CBET Babies), and the Parent and Child Time (PACT) activities. CBET classes for adults are 2.5 hours per session. While the adult participants are in their CBET classes, their younger children attend the School Readiness Program. At the end of the class session, the children join their parents for the PACT activities for 30 minutes. Infants and toddlers under the age of two remain with their parents in the classroom. Eligible children who are four years old are placed in a five-day State Preschool class.
The Family Literacy Program at Isla Vista Elementary School promotes:
The purpose of the CBET component for parents is threefold: (a) provide parents with knowledge and skills to support their children’s development and emergent literacy; (b) provide parents with information about the school system and how to become involved in their children’s education; and (c) promote parents’ proficiency in English language in four domains: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
The purpose of the School Readiness component for children ages 2-4 years is also threefold: (a) promote children’s oral language development by providing them with opportunities to develop English oral skills, as well as oral fluency in their primary language; (b) provide children with early literacy skills; and (c) promote children’s socio-emotional development and independence to prepare them for entry into Kindergarten.
The Community Based English Tutoring (CBET) Program for Parents. Core Family Literacy classes are offered for three hours, three mornings a week, during the school year, and for four weeks during the summer. The adult English language curriculum is based on participants’ level of English proficiency, and an instructional assistant supports the multiple levels of instruction. In addition, one hour of computer instruction is provided per week. In the tutoring component of the program, adults learn strategies for helping their children at home with literacy development and schoolwork. Counseling services were integrated into the program in 2007-2008 in collaboration with New Beginnings Counseling Center. Parents also participated in the Padres Adelante leadership and advocacy training program at Isla Vista Elementary School.
School Readiness/Early Literacy. In this component, children ages 2-4 years attend school readiness classes sponsored by Isla Vista Youth Projects three times a week while their parents attend CBET classes. An early childhood curriculum has been specially designed for this program that takes a holistic approach to the development of the child. The comprehensive DLM curriculum has been recently implemented.
Parent and Child Time (PACT). Each session allocates the final 30 minutes to bring children and parents together for joint literacy activities. As part of the parent/child time for school-age children, adult participants also visit their children's classrooms at Isla Vista Elementary School.
Summer Program. During the summer session, adult participants are given a variety of language development activities related to real life experiences, during which they are encouraged to engage in conversation in English. This approach to language learning has been found to be particularly successful in building confidence in oral language skills in a nonthreatening, informal environment. The participants engage in a variety of structured grammar and vocabulary building activities as well.
The study utilizes mixed methods in its research design. Several instruments were used to gather quantitative and qualitative data. Three English assessments, that were validated and used in previous studies of CBET programs and previous evaluations of the Family Literacy Project at Isla Vista School, were used in the present evaluation as pre-tests and post-tests: (a) English Vocabulary and Structures Assessment, (b) Homework Directions Assessment, and (c) Writing Assessment. Additionally, the SOLOM and Rosetta Stone assessment data were collected. Focus group interviews were conducted with parent participants. Individual interviews were conducted with the CBET instructors. Semi-structured interview protocols were especially designed to assess the parents’ and instructors’ perceptions of the strengths and constraints of the program. The Kindergarten Student Entrance Profile (KSEP) was used as a screening tool to measure the developmental readiness of each four-year-old student prior to entering kindergarten.
Data were analyzed and findings were triangulated. T-tests and effect sizes were computed to analyze the pre- and post- assessment data. The interview data were coded and analyzed by emerging themes from four areas: (a) program strengths and constraints; (b) impact on parent participants; (c) impact on participants’ children; and (d) program improvement.
Overall, findings suggest that the program has been very effective in increasing participants’ English language skills. Participants have significantly improved in four areas measured by the pre- and post- assessments: Vocabulary & Grammar, Writing Fluency, Writing Comprehension, and Writing Total. Additionally, participants have improved their receptive skills (listening). The results of the SOLOM and Rosetta Stone assessments indicate that the majority of participants have reached early intermediate and early advanced proficiency levels, and are ready to move to the next level.
Findings also indicate that participants have learned and applied strategies for helping their children learn at home. They have gained a greater knowledge of the school system and resources available to children. The participants’ English skills have enabled them to support their children in their schoolwork as well as the emergent literacy of their younger toddlers.
Finally, one of the most important findings in this study is the fact that by acquiring English skills and learning how to help with schoolwork, parents have enhanced their relationship with their children. This has been a motivating factor for parents to continue the program. While the participants used their primary language to communicate with their children, their children’s development of English language at school was creating a language barrier that was impeding the communication between parents and children. Through the Family Literacy/CBET program, parents were able to break down that barrier and the parent-child relationship improved significantly. Findings indicate that the adult participants felt more empowered. They contacted their children’s teachers more often and made decisions about their child’s education.
For additional information about family literacy, visit the National Center for Family Literacy web site.