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Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy: a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally

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Effective and inclusive practices in family
literacy, language and numeracy: a review
of programmes and practice in the UK
and internationally
Greg Brooks, Kate Pahl, Alison Pollard and Felicity Rees
University of Sheffield, NRDC
RESEARCH
PAPER
Welcome to CfBT Education Trust
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Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
The National Research and Development
Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC)
was founded in 2002 as a cornerstone of the
Government’s Skills for Life strategy in England.
The Centre’s work is supported financially by
DIUS and a range of other organisations.
Our remit is to provide underpinning evidence
and practical guidance for teacher educators,
teachers and other professionals. We are
working to help improve the quality of teaching
and learning so that young people and adults
can progress, achieve and develop the skills
and knowledge they need to succeed in life
and work and for policy development.
NRDC is a consortium, led by the Institute
of Education, University of London. It brings
together the best United Kingdom researchers
in the field, together with expert and
experienced development professionals and a
wide range of talented practitioners.
The partners are:
•   Institute of Education, University of London
•   Literacy Research Centre, Lancaster 
University
•   School of Continuing Education, University 
of Nottingham
•   School of Education, University of Sheffield
•   East London Pathfinder
•   Liverpool Lifelong Learning Partnership
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years ago, CfBT Education Trust now has an
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© CfBT copyright February 2008
All rights reserved
A full version of this report is available on www.cfbt.com
www.cfbt.com 3
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
•   Basic Skills Agency at NIACE
•   Learning and Skills Network
•   LLU+, London South Bank University
•   National Institute of Adult Continuing 
Education, including the Basic Skills Agency
•   King’s College London
•   University of Leeds
Information about NRDC’s research and
development programmes and projects can
be found on www.nrdc.org.uk
© The University of Sheffield is a member of the
NRDC consortium, and its School of Education
is one of Britain’s leading centres of research
on family literacy, language and numeracy, and
on literacy more generally. In addition to Greg
Brooks and Kate Pahl, researchers in these
areas currently or recently based there include
Prof. Peter Hannon, Prof. Jackie Marsh, Prof.
Cathy Nutbrown, Dr Maxine Burton, Dr Julia
Davies, Dr Kath Hirst, Dr Anne Morgan
(née Kirkpatrick, now at Sheffield Hallam
University), Dr Andrey Rosowsky and Dr Jo
Weinberger. Particularly influential has been
Peter Hannon and Cathy Nutbrown’s ORIM
model, analysing family literacy in terms of
parents providing Opportunities for their
children’s literacy development, Recognition
of their children’s literacy practices, Interaction
with children to develop their literacy, and
Modelling of their own literacy practices.
www.cfbt.com 4
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
This review is dedicated to the memor y of Sheila Wolfendale.
Rosa
Why I didn’t do the homework
Because the phone is ringing
The door is noking
The kid is yumping
The food is burning
Time runs fast.
Rosa (Auerbach 1989)
Lem
Way far
Now
It a Church bell
Ringin’
Dey singin’
You hear it?
I hear it
Far
Now
(Heath 1983:170)
www.cfbt.com 5
Contents
List of Figures 7
List of Tables 7
Project team 8
Acknowledgements 8
Independent peer review 8
Executive summary 9
Greg Brooks
1 Origins, aims and scope of the review 11
Greg Brooks and Kate Pahl
1.1 Origins of the review 11
1.2 Aims 11
1.3 Scope 11
2 Values, history, definitions, typologies and rationales 12
Kate Pahl
2.1 Values of the study 12
2.2 Family literacy, language and numeracy programmes: a brief history 12
2.2.1 Family literacy 12
2.2.2 Family numeracy 15
2.2.3 Family language (English for speakers of other languages, ESOL) 15
2.3 Definitions, typologies and rationales for family literacy, language and 16
numeracy programmes
2.3.1 ‘Family literacy’ 16
2.3.2 What is literacy? Literacy and literacies 16
2.3.3 What is numeracy? 17
2.3.4 Questions and challenges over definitions 17
2.3.5 Typologies of family literacy programmes 17
2.3.6 Rationale for programmes 18
3 Analysis of the quantitative evidence 20
Greg Brooks with Felicity Rees and Alison Pollard
3.1 What is a meta-study? 20
3.2 This meta-study 20
3.3 The projects covered 20
3.4 The analyses 21
3.5 Findings 24
3.6 Benefits for parents 28
3.7 Benefits for children 28
3.8 Long-term benefits 29
3.9 Some tentative insights 29
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
www.cfbt.com 6
4 Qualitative analysis of the international projects 32
Kate Pahl
4.1 Introduction 32
4.2 Canada 32
4.3 Europe 33
4.3.1 Parent Empowerment through Family Literacy: a European initiative 33
4.3.2 QualiFLY: a European project on family literacy 34
4.4 Nepal 36
4.5 New Zealand 37
4.6 South Africa 38
4.7 Uganda 41
4.8 USA 41
4.8.1 The Verizon OPTIONS Initiative, Santa Barbara, California 41
4.8.2 Project FLAME, Chicago 43
4.8.3 MAPPS Math And Parent Partnerships, South Western States 44
4.9 Conclusion to qualitative international survey: drawing the threads together 45
5 Family literacy, language and numeracy provision in
England and Wales: an overview 47
Kate Pahl
5.1 Introduction 47
5.2 Skills for Families 47
5.3 Keeping Up with the Children 49
5.4 Early Start 50
5.5 Family literacy and language programmes within Sure Start 50
5.6 Family numeracy 52
5.7 IMPACT 53
5.8 Bookstart and Books for Babies 54
5.9 Reading is Fundamental, UK 55
5.10 The REAL Project, Sheffield 55
5.11 PEEP (Peers Early Education Partnership), Oxford 56
5.12 Fathers’ projects 57
5.13 Drawing together some threads: the picture in England and Wales 58
5.13.1 The Basic Skills Agency 58
5.13.2 Family literacy, language and numeracy as delivered by local authorities 59
5.13.3 Initiatives funded through the private sector, charities and voluntary sector 60
5.13.4 Sure Start 60
5.13.5 Literacy and literacies 60
5.13.6 Some future directions 61
6 Conclusions and implications 62
Greg Brooks
References 64
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
www.cfbt.com 7
Appendices 71
Appendix A: The detailed quantitative analyses 72
Greg Brooks with Felicity Rees and Alison Pollard
Appendix B: Outline details of the programmes analysed qualitatively in chapter 4 137
Kate Pahl
Appendix C: Continuing debates and some emerging principles 143
Kate Pahl
Debate number 1: Family literacy: rhetoric or research? 143
Debate number 2: The causal possibilities of FLLN programmes 143
Debate number 3: Do family literacy programmes perpetuate a 144
normative, middle-class version of schooling?
Debate number 4: Whose literacies are being supported by 145
family literacy programmes?
Debate number 5: Whose numeracies are being supported by 147
family numeracy programmes?
Debate number 6: Whose languages are being supported by 148
family language programmes?
Debate number 7: What kinds of families are being supported by 149
FLLN programmes?
Debate number 8: Whose cultures are being supported by 150
FLLN programmes?
Productive pedagogies and principles of family literacy, language and 151
numeracy programmes
Table 1 The projects analysed quantitatively, and basic information about them 22
Table 2 Summary of findings from the quantitative analyses 25
Table 3 Summary of follow-up findings from the quantitative analyses 30
Table 4 Overview of approved FLLN courses in England, 2005/06 48
List of Tables
Figure 1 Development of family literacy practice in England 13
Figure 2 The ORIM framework 14
List of Figures
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
www.cfbt.com 8
Project team for this meta-study
Acknowledgements
Independent peer review
Prof. Greg Brooks, project director
Dr Kate Pahl (February–November 2006)
Alison Pollard (March–July 2005)
Felicity Rees (March–July 2005)
The report was read and independently peer-reviewed by:
This report, and the handbook based on the
research project, were supported by a number
of key people and organisations. We would like
to thank the members of the FLLN Advisory
Group, chaired by Carol Taylor of the Basic
Skills Agency, who gave us substantial and
rigorous feedback on our research.
This report could not have been prepared
without the substantial support of the following:
Musseret Anwar, CETS Croydon
Beryl Bateson, Birmingham LA
Dave Baker, Institute of Education, University
of London
Viv Bird, National Literacy Trust
Snoeks Desmond, Family Literacy Project,
KwaZulu-Natal
Peter Hannon, University of Sheffield
Rachel Hodge, Lancaster University
Nan Jackson, Rochdale LA
Wendy Leak, Rotherham Central Sure Start
Desiree Lopez, NRDC, Institute of Education,
University of London
Yvonne Spare, University of Sheffield
Carol Taylor, Basic Skills Agency at NIACE
We particularly thank the Research and
Development team at CfBT for supporting us
and working with us throughout the project.
Elaine McCann
Bernadette Lawlor
Jeanne Haggart
Jeff Evans
John Vorhaus
Andrea Mearing
Cathie Clarke
Morwenna Vernon
Beryl Bateson
Carol Taylor
Desiree Lopez
Amy Butler
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
www.cfbt.com 9
Executive summary
Context
This study – a meta-study – was commissioned
by CfBT Education Trust, and funded by CfBT
and the National Research and Development
Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC).
The aims of the meta-study were to
•   conduct a UK-wide and international review 
of family literacy, language and numeracy
(FLLN) programmes and practice
•   develop an international perspective on 
effective practices in FLLN, looking both at
how literacy, language and numeracy are
enhanced by programmes, and also at how
families’ wider outcomes are enabled
•   identify criteria for promising practice and 
models of inclusive and diverse FLLN
delivery for wide dissemination.
A ‘meta-study’ was taken to include a
quantitative and qualitative review, based on
studies exhibiting a wider range of research
designs than would contribute to a systematic
review. This study is based on evidence
not only from Britain but also from Canada,
Germany, Nepal, New Zealand, South Africa,
Turkey, Uganda, the USA, and from a six-nation
initiative led by Malta which also involved
Belgium, England, Italy, Lithuania and Romania.
Scope of the study
An inclusive stance was taken towards what
should be counted as a family, and to the
range of practices to be classed as literacy,
oracy and numeracy. Holistic and community
approaches, and formal and informal learning,
were all considered. In multilingual situations a
key value of providers and learners is respect
for, and building on, learners’ first language.
When first introduced into Britain in the
mid-1990s, two-generation FLLN programmes
went through a period of fairly detailed central
prescription, but since about 2000 the range
of programmes has diversified. This review
covers not only two-generational approaches
but any that acknowledge participants
as members of a family. A widespread
assumption of two-generation FLLN
programmes is that they not only benefit both
parents and children but benefit them more
than stand-alone programmes.
Findings: quantitative evidence
Most family programmes aim to improve
the ability of parents to help their children’s
education. Eight studies report these benefits:
•   Family numeracy pilot programmes
•   Bookstart in Birmingham
•   Family literacy demonstration programmes
•   Early Start
•   Family literacy for new groups
•   Family literacy and numeracy in prisons
•   FLAME
• 
Ħ
ilti clubs
Parents also benefit in their ability to help their
children in wider ways, including:
•   mothers’ child-rearing practices
•   parents’ employment
•   parents’ self-confidence
•   parents being more involved with their 
children’s schools.
There is good evidence of benefits to children’s
skills, as compared with parents’:
•   literacy: 12 studies reported benefits from 
test data
•   language: eight studies reported benefits 
from test data
•   numeracy: six studies reported benefits 
from test data.
For all three skills the evidence is mixed, and
firmer evidence is desirable.
The benefits of family literacy, language and
numeracy appear to persist long after the
intervention is finished. Seven studies had
gathered follow-up data, and almost all of these
showed that benefits had been sustained.
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
www.cfbt.com 10
Impressive results are quoted where
programmes worked with mothers in a
‘traditional’ family setting. Programmes such
as FLAME in Chicago and MOCEP in Turkey
may involve literacy and numeracy, but are part
of a broader vision of the role of the parent
– community integration and involvement in
FLAME, health and child-rearing in MOCEP.
Similar insights are found in Nepal and
South Africa.
No quantitative study has yet been carried out
into whether:
•   two-generation FLLN programmes benefit 
both parents and children
•   parents in FLLN programmes make better 
progress than they would in stand-alone
adult basic education programmes
•   some approaches to family literacy or 
language or numeracy are more successful
than others.
Findings: qualitative evidence
The FLLN field in England and Wales is vibrant,
and more varied than ever before. It has also:
•   provided inspiration for some of the 
increasing number of interesting and effective
programmes elsewhere in the world
•   contributed at home to parents, especially 
mothers’, empowerment through learning, and
improved children’s educational prospects.
Research and development was led by the
Basic Skills Agency in the field in both England
and Wales in the mid and late 1990s, and it has
continued to do so in Wales. In England its role
has now diminished and has not been taken
up in full by any other organisation; leadership
for the field remains a pressing issue.
Provision in England through local authorities
and the private, charitable and voluntary sectors
is excellent in some places and patchy in others.
The role of local authorities remains critical in
shaping and delivering policy and practice.
Flagship authorities can lead the way in
listening to families, taking account of
their linguistic and cultural resources, and
developing a framework for delivery.
The strength of many UK programmes lies in
the complex, community-focused partnerships
they encouraged.
•   Initiatives such as Shared Beginnings 
worked at grassroots level to encourage
book sharing with young children.
•   Local Sure Start initiatives reached across 
different agencies to work together.
Relatively new international programmes
(such as Hamburg, part of the QualiFLY
project) are actively working in a multimodal
way, drawing on a multiple range of modes to
deliver their work.
•   Digital storytelling features as a theme 
in programmes such as the Verizon
OPTIONS programme, and has also been
described as a key feature of family literacy
programmes in Toronto.
•   There is some evidence that this is 
happening in Britain too, and this opens up
possibilities for attractive new programmes.
•   At the same time, evaluation strategies in 
rural South Africa and Nepal also rely heavily
on visual methods and oral storytelling.
In multilingual situations a key value of
providers and learners is respect for and
building on learners’ first languages.
Very few fathers have been involved in FLLN
programmes, but more organisations are
beginning to develop specific programmes
for fathers.
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
www.cfbt.com 11
1.1 Origins of the review
This whole project was commissioned by
CfBT Education Trust, and funded mainly
by CfBT, with a contribution of about one
third of the overall cost from the National
Research and Development Centre for Adult
Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC), which also
carried it out. The project began in April
2005 and ran until December 2006. It was
a collaboration between researchers at the
Institute of Education, University of London, at
Lancaster University and at the University of
Sheffield. There were also strategic and crucial
contributions from partners in Birmingham,
Croydon, Derbyshire (Read On – Write Away!),
Rochdale and Staffordshire local authorities
– see the accompanying report on the case
studies and self-reporting sites. This section of
the project, the review of which has taken the
form of a meta-study with both quantitative and
qualitative aspects, was carried out entirely by
researchers at the University of Sheffield.
1.2 Aims
The primary aim of this project as a whole was
to identify and support effective and inclusive
family literacy, language and numeracy
practices.
The aims of this section of the project were to
•   conduct a UK-wide and international review 
of family literacy, language and numeracy
(FLLN) programmes and practice
•   develop an international perspective on 
effective practices in FLLN, looking both at
how literacy, language and numeracy are
enhanced by programmes, and also at how
families’ wider outcomes are enabled
•   identify criteria for promising practice and 
models of inclusive and diverse FLLN
delivery for wide dissemination.
It was hoped that an international comparative
approach would advance understanding
of promising practice, both in the UK and
elsewhere, and contribute to an understanding
of increasingly diverse conceptions of families
and their literacy, language and numeracy
learning. The review was also intended to
contribute to an understanding of the historical
development of FLLN, and the political context
for learning practices in each country included
in the review.
1.3 Scope
Chapter 2 addresses the history of family
literacy provision in the UK and the USA,
incorporates a discussion of definitions of
FLLN, and includes sections on values,
typologies and rationales for the field. The next
three chapters present the findings of
•   quantitative analyses of FLLN programmes 
from the UK and elsewhere (chapter 3); this
chapter also presents our definition of a
meta-study
•   qualitative analyses of FLLN programmes 
from the rest of the world (chapter 4), and
•   qualitative analyses of FLLN programmes 
from the UK (chapter 5).
Some conclusions and implications for policy
and practice are presented in chapter 6,
and a number of continuing debates and
emerging principles in the field are discussed
in Appendix C.
Chapter 1: Origins, aims and scope
of the review
Greg Brooks and
Kate Pahl
This section
of the project, the
review which has
taken the form of
a meta-study with
both quantitative
and qualitative
aspects, was
carried out entirely
by researchers
at the University
of Sheffield.
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
www.cfbt.com 12
2.1 Values of the study
The research team took an inclusive approach
to the family, in respect of age, gender, size
and diversity of culture and ways of living
and working. Since the 1990s, there has
been a great amount of provision which has
explored with families what they do with literacy,
language and numeracy (LLN) in supportive and
diverse ways, best exemplified by a number of
surveys the National Literacy Trust conducted
during that period that revealed these initiatives
(Hannon and Bird 2004).
It is essential to understand and value family
learning and informal learning as ways of
participating in and practising LLN and learning.
At present, family learning and informal learning
are poorly understood, and the informal and
creative ways in which families learn literacy,
language and numeracy remain under-explored.
A primary feature of the context for this work
is the growing migration and displacement
of peoples, and the changing structures,
circumstances and ways of living for families
in the early 21st century. For example, we have
to understand the needs and circumstances
of refugees and other vulnerable communities
in order to make a positive and practical
response to their literacy, language and
numeracy needs and also engage with the
LLN practices of families, and to understand
what learning they want and need.
Citizenship is a further central dimension:
families are part of communities and essential
to community development and vibrant social
capital. The starting point of good practice
in FLLN is to appreciate and to build on the
richness and variety of literacy and language
activity at home.
2.2 Family literacy, language and
numeracy programmes: a
brief history
This section offers a brief overview of the
history of FLLN programmes. As the report
shows, the history of these has then to be set
in context, in relation to values, definitions and
perceptions of the field. This is an introduction
for those interested in the broad history of the
programmes in the USA and UK.
2.2 .1 Family literacy
Hannon and Weinberger (2003) suggested that
the concept of family literacy originated in the
United States. The phrase itself was first used
as a term of description by Taylor (1983). When
programmes to support and develop family
literacy were developed in the USA, they were
specifically organised through the Even Start
programmes, which were funded through the
US Department of Education. Nickse (1993)
estimated that there were then already more
than 500 family literacy projects in operation in
the USA, funded federally.
A model that was developed in the USA,
but imported to the UK, was the Kenan
model of family literacy, which originated in
Louisville, Kentucky and was promoted by the
National Center for Family Literacy. This
model was intensive (three or four days a
week), and long term (over a school year),
and focused on low-literacy parents and their
preschool children. It included Adult Basic
Education for parents, quality ‘High/Scope’
preschool education for children, parent
education, and time for parents and children
to engage in shared activities (Hannon and
Weinberger 2003).
In a survey of family literacy carried out by
Hannon and Bird (2004), three studies were
described that referred to activity in the
USA, namely Morrow (1995), Purcell-Gates
(2000) and Wasik, Dobbins and Herrmann
(2001). Hannon and Bird also referred to
reviews by Hannon (1995) and Wolfendale
and Topping (1996) in Britain, as well as
Cairney (2002) who looked at family literacy
programmes in Australia. Hannon and Bird
also reported on activity in Canada, France,
Spain, Greece, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico,
and South Africa.
Chapter 2: Values, history, definitions,
typologies and rationales
Kate Pahl
At present,
family learning and
informal learning are
poorly understood,
and the informal
and creative ways
in which families
learn literacy,
language and
numeracy remain
under-explored.
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
www.cfbt.com 13
Hannon and Bird argued that the development
of family literacy programmes in England
can best be understood in terms of bringing
together two strands – early childhood
education and adult and community education.
This can be represented in a visual model
(Figure 1), which is taken from the updated
chapter by Hannon, Brooks and Bird (2007).
Hannon and Bird admitted that the initial focus
for family literacy, and the rationale adopted
by government agencies, was improving
children’s literacy. This was tied to a focus
on children’s literacy standards in the early
1990s, which culminated in the National
Literacy Strategy, rolled out in schools from
1998. Throughout the 1990s family literacy
was also growing, after the Adult Literacy
and Basic Skills Unit (ALBSU) imported the
Kenan model of family literacy from the United
States. Following a fact-finding research tour
of the USA in 1992–93, ALBSU instituted
four demonstration programmes in different
‘areas of deprivation’ in England and Wales
in 1994. They were based in or near primary
schools. Details of the programme content
and implementation have been reported in
an evaluation by NFER (Brooks et al. 1996).
This study claimed that the programmes
produced changes in reported home literacy
activities and significant gains in the literacy
achievement of both children and parents. The
children began from a very low starting point in
terms of measures of vocabulary and reading,
with average standardised scores around 85.
Gains were of the order of 5 points. Twenty to
34 months later, a follow-up study of families
found that children had retained their gains,
and that parents reported benefits in finding or
retaining employment (Brooks et al. 1997).
The effect of the ALBSU initiative and its
associated research was to establish a
national prominence for family literacy (Hannon
and Bird 2004:19). Family literacy programmes
began to recognise the importance of studies
of emergent literacy, as well as of family
literacy practices involving both children and
Figure 1: Development of family literacy practice in England
Early Childhood
Education
Adult and Community
Education
Parental involvement in
nursery and infant classes
Parental involvement in
teaching of reading
Preschool literacy
initiatives*
1970s
1980s
Increasing central control
1990s
Family Literacy
Practice
2000s
Increasing diversity in rapidly
changing context
Individual-focused adult
literacy provision
Community-focused adult
literacy provision
Two-generation model from
USA via ALBSU/BSA
* It should be noted, however, that in some locations, such as Birmingham, there were family literacy programmes for older children,
for example, Year 4 (eight-year-olds).
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
www.cfbt.com 14
parents. Such activities as parent literacy
support groups and family reading groups
followed this pattern (Beverton et al. 1993).
Many initiatives evolved which were valued
for their diversity and for the way in which a
number of communities and groups within
the community, particularly women, were
empowered and developed their skills further.
For example, Read On – Write Away! in
Derbyshire developed initiatives to support
women in their family literacy programme and
develop progression opportunities (Davies
et al. 2002).
As part of this development of family literacy
programmes in the UK, in the years 1994–96
a co-funding scheme of grants to support
some 400 smaller programmes was instituted
by ALBSU. Poulson et al. (1997) studied 18
smaller family literacy programmes, but the
conclusions were unclear.
In 1995 ALBSU’s remit was extended to
include supporting the development of
effective programmes in basic skills for
children and young people and changed its
name to the Basic Skills Agency (BSA). As
the remit for the BSA widened, the field was
also developing to understand family literacy
in a wider concept. Emerging thinking on
such provision was also focused on literacy,
language and numeracy activity in the home.
As a result of their work with families in
Sheffield, Hannon and Nutbrown (1997) sought
to develop a conceptual framework for family
literacy activity in the home, especially that
directed at children. Hannon and Nutbrown
developed the ORIM framework (see Figure 2),
which identified ways of working with parents
and children together within the home. Hannon
and Nutbrown argued that it was possible for
parents to provide the circumstances shown.
In 1993 the National Literacy Trust (NLT) was
set up with the aim of working with others
to enhance literacy standards; to encourage
more reading and writing for pleasure by
children, young people and adults; and to
raise the profile of the importance of literacy
in the context of social and technological
change. The NLT initiated a series of surveys
in order to determine the scale and scope of
family literacy provision in the UK. These found
that 400 initiatives could be described as
family literacy initiatives out of a total of 1300
returns from their survey of literacy initiatives.
The picture revealed by the surveys was of
provision in a range of settings, including
baby clinics, family centres, day nurseries,
libraries, after-school clubs, travellers’ sites,
playgroups, churches and housing schemes.
Many agencies were involved, including
schools, adult community colleges, further
education colleges, voluntary organisations
and educational business organisations,
newspapers, community associations,
ex-offender organisations, social services and
healthcare organisations. Activities were very
broad, including the making of books, puppets
or story sacks, and some provided resources
for parents to use at home. Accreditation was
often offered through ‘Open College’ systems
(Hannon and Bird 2004). These activities
reflect the powerful pull of family literacy
activity for parents and children and reflect
the excitement many practitioners felt about
working in this way with families.
The incoming Labour government in 1997
encouraged further literacy activity. As a result
Figure 2: The ORIM framework
Opportunities for their children’s literacy development (trips, visits, shopping, materials for writing, drawing,
books, opportunities for play)
Recognition of their literacy practices (explicitly valuing what children do, and listening to them talking
playing and writing)
Interaction with children to develop their literacy (such as spelling out words children want to write, looking
at letter/sound names, helping children spell a word)
Modelling of their own literacy practices (reading signs, directions, instructions, packaging, print in the
environment, writing notes, letters, shopping lists, reading newspapers)
(Hannon and Nutbrown 1997)
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of a new enthusiasm for government-sponsored
literacy initiatives, a National Year of Reading
was run by the NLT in 1998/99, and this also
encouraged a wide range of provision. After
the Moser report of 1999, Skills for Life was
set up as a major government initiative, with
the aim of tackling adult literacy and numeracy,
and the result was a focus on parents’ skills in
adult education.
Since the Hannon and Bird study, and as
described in chapter 5, the development of
Sure Start was a major government initiative
in the UK. Rolling out from 1999 onwards,
it has encouraged a plethora of initiatives
aimed at encouraging literacy practices within
families, and the REAL project in Sheffield has
continued to work using the ORIM framework,
with teachers and parents in homes
(Nutbrown, Hannon and Morgan 2006).
The position today is one of very diverse
provision, with very different epistemological
models of family literacy. Many local projects,
such as the Rochdale family literacy
programmes, incorporate a focus on creativity,
including art and music activities as well as
digital literacies. This is partly to do with the
focus on innovation instituted by Skills for
Families, an initiative developed by the Basic
Skills Agency to encourage innovation and
training in the field of FLLN. Sure Start has
also encouraged local groups to ‘take hold’
of different models of FLLN and adapt them
to local contexts (Weinberger, Pickstone and
Hannon 2005). This kind of approach mirrors
similar work in developing countries such as
Bangladesh (Rogers with Uddin 2005) which
focuses on the local and vernacular as a
starting point for family literacy programmes
(Street 2005). In chapter 5 a further analysis of
family literacy programmes within Sure Start
provides the context for current policy initiatives.
2.2 .2 Family numeracy
Family numeracy developed sometimes in
tandem with, and sometimes independently of,
family literacy. One early account of a group by
Jean Milloy (1994) from Walk in Numeracy, a
purpose-built centre on the White City Estate
in London focusing on numeracy, described
working with students to link everyday maths
with ‘school maths’, and she described the
content of the sessions as being focused
on how maths is taught in primary schools.
Family numeracy was an add-on to the
initial concept of family literacy, but focused
on everyday maths. Merttens (1993) also
addressed the issue of the impact of a family
numeracy programme with a focus on school
mathematics, showing positive results for
the intervention.
Family numeracy programmes to support
parents in their numeracy and to help
them help their children in their numeracy
development were piloted by the Basic Skills
Agency between April 1997 and March 1998.
The programmes were evaluated in-house
in 1998, with statistical analyses by Greg
Brooks and Dougal Hutchison (Basic Skills
Agency 1998). The model adhered to for
the programme made sure that there was a
weekly joint session between parents and
children, as well as separate sessions for
children and parents of between one and a
half and two hours. Over 500 families took
part in the pilot programme. A new television
series, ‘Count on Me’, was broadcast on the
BBC to address this issue.
As with literacy, the Standards Fund allocated
funding for family courses such as ‘Keeping Up
with the Children’ as part of schools’ remit to
raise numeracy standards in the late 1990s.
2.2 .3 Family language (English for
speakers of other languages, ESOL)
The original model of family literacy established
by the Basic Skills Agency in 1994, and
evaluated by NFER in 1994–5 (Brooks et al.
1996), was also aimed at multilingual families
but the local programme designed to do this
collapsed after a few months and provided
no data. In 1997 the Agency therefore
implemented a further set of family literacy
pilot programmes which included adapting
the model to include working with linguistic
minority families where the parents had basic
skills needs and the children were aged 3 to 6.
The Basic Skills Agency commissioned NFER
to evaluate these alternative models (Brooks
et al. 1999), and the resulting study concluded
that the original model could be successfully
adapted for linguistic minority families with a
child aged 3 to 6. The parents in the study
significantly improved both their English and
their ability to help their children. In addition,
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the children made substantial progress in
writing and in early literacy generally.
The same study also showed that the basic
model could be successfully adapted for
children in Year 4 (age 8) and their parents,
but a parallel attempt to adapt it for children
in Year 7 (age 11, in England the first year of
secondary school) was a failure.
As family literacy programmes expanded
and diversified in the late 1990s, many more
programmes arose in response to local needs
and were developed to enhance linguistic
competences. Many of the family literacy
courses described by the National Literacy
Trust’s surveys of family literacy provision
were aimed at multilingual parents. These
included programmes in areas of linguistic
diversity such as Rochdale, Birmingham,
Islington, Coventry and Blackburn. Parent
literacy programmes in urban areas such as
Southwark built upon the linguistic capacities
of the communities they served (Pahl 2000).
Community-focused approaches often
succeeded in supporting family language
programmes (Hannon et al. 2003). The Skills
for Families programme also attracted new
learners in new settings, and family language
programmes in areas where there was a high
concentration of multilingual families were
particularly successful, for example in Croydon
(Pahl 2002a). Part 2 describes initiatives
which were aimed at multilingual parents, in
particular the programmes based in the USA
aimed at Spanish-speaking parents, such
as FLAME and MAPPS. The case studies, in
particular the studies set in Croydon, Rochdale
and Blackburn, further describe family
language programmes.
2.3 Definitions, typologies and
rationales for family literacy,
language and numeracy
programmes
2.3.1 ‘Family literacy’
It is thought that Denny Taylor coined the
phrase ‘family literacy’ in 1983, and the phrase
built on her understanding and recognising of
diverse literacy practices within families. This
is distinct from the concept of family literacy
programmes. The definition of these from the
Basic Skills Agency, when they first began
funding family literacy programmes in 1993,
was as follows:
Family literacy programmes work with parents
and their children to improve the literacy skills
of both. On occasions other family members,
such as grandparents, brothers and sisters,
may be involved, but this is relatively rare in
the more intensive programmes.
(ALBSU 1993:9)
The definition from the National Literacy
Trust, which supported the development of
family literacy programmes in a more diffuse
way, was:
…any initiative which aims to work through
parents to improve the reading and writing
of their children, as well as those which have
the improvement of the parents’ literacy as
an aim.
‘Family literacy’ can also convey the ideas that
there is pre-existing literacy activity in families,
that older family members may be engaging
children in those activities (and vice versa),
and that in practice most programmes often
do not deal with isolated individuals but with
members of a family (Hannon 1999:122).
2.3.2 What is literacy? Literacy and
literacies
There has been considerable debate over
whether there can be a ‘settled’ definition
of literacy in the context of changes in
communicational practices (Kress 2003).
However, there have also been clear
indications that a focus on language
and literacy can be tied to an alphabetic
construction of literacy, and Kress and Street
(2006) have agreed that to go too far into
non-verbal areas where literacy is concerned
is not constructive. Therefore, in this study the
term ‘literacy’ relates to language and literacy
practices tied to alphabetic literacy and to
linguistic repertoires.
However, the term ‘literacies’ does signal
that there are multiple literacies, in that these
literacy practices can be recognised across
languages and across domains. In that sense
the word ‘literacies’ celebrates the diversity
of linguistic practices within families and
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
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is therefore retained. It is also recognised
that literacy practices within families are
linked to a wide range of communicative
practices including the use of narrative, and
practices such as drawing and model-making.
Sometimes these links are very close and
ethnographies of communicative practices
within families have found this to be the case
(Pahl 2002a).
2.3.3 What is numeracy?
Within the numeracy field, the debate has been
more about the relationship between everyday
maths and numeracy. In this study, the concept
of numeracy as a social practice is used, in
order to draw attention to the way numeracy
is used on an everyday basis within families
(Street, Baker and Tomlin 2005). However, it
has been argued by Street and Baker (2006)
that a multimodal dimension to numeracy
aids an understanding of numeracy learning
in classrooms. This added dimension to
numeracy is one which is of use in considering
links between home numeracy practices and a
multimodal understanding of learning; that is,
an understanding of numeracy as being both
linguistic and visual in its properties.
2.3.4 Questions and challenges
over definitions
Hannon and Weinberger (2003) argued that
there were some problems with the way
the term ‘family literacy’ was still acquiring
meanings and the way the construct ‘family
literacy’ is conceived. Hannon (1999) was
concerned that there was a theoretical
vacuum at the heart of the definitions of
family literacy and that there needed to be a
reconsideration of ways of conceptualising
family literacy programmes. He argued that
there was no distinction currently being made
between a ‘family literacy’ programme and
a much broader notion of family literacy. He
argued that there needed to be distinction
between the concept of ‘rhetoric’ in family
literacy, and the reality (1999). In some cases,
the rhetoric was at odds with the reality,
but was being used to drive funding for
programmes. He argued that the assumptions
underpinning programmes were often at odds
with research findings. For example, he argued
that according to family literacy research, very
few, if any, families could be said totally to lack
literacy or concern for children’s development
and education, yet some programmes
appeared to be premised on such beliefs.
Auerbach (1989:167) had likewise noted a
gap between research and implementation:
existing models for family literacy programmes
seemed not to be informed by ethnographic
research. Both Hannon and Auerbach
pointed to an urgent need for ethnographic
research into family literacy practices to inform
practice within family literacy programmes.
By recognising that the definitions of FLLN
programmes are contested, this study also
opens out the scope to include a focus on
research on FLLN practices, which underpins
the way FLLN programmes are delivered.
2.3.5 Typologies of family literacy
programmes
There appear to be no typologies of family
language or numeracy programmes.
Therefore, in order to clarify the way in which
FLLN programmes are conceptualised, this
section on typology examines different models
of family literacy, drawing on work by Auerbach
(1989) and Nickse (1993) in the USA.
Elsa Auerbach (1989) developed the following
typology of family literacy work.
1. Parents working independently from their
children on reading and writing.
2. Using literacy to address family and
community problems, increasing the social
significance of literacy in their lives.
3. Parents addressing child-rearing concerns
through family literacy classes.
4. Supporting the development of home
language and culture.
5. Interacting with the school system.
Ruth Nickse (1993) described the following
different models in the USA.
1. Kenan model: Intensive (3–4 days a week),
long-term (over a school year), focuses on
low-literacy parents and their preschool
children. Includes ABE for parents, ‘High/
Scope’ education for children, parent
education and time for parents and children
to engage in activities together.
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2. Programmes focusing on reading, e.g.
Beginning with Books, Take Up Reading
Now, Mothers’ Reading Program (New
York), Family Reading.
3. Programmes supporting women’s
re-entry into the workplace, such as Wider
Opportunities for Women.
Nickse acknowledged the complexity of
programmes, and the complexity of families.
She produced this typology to help clarify
the position:
Type 1: Parent/child (family literacy)
Type 2: Adult/child (intergenerational)
Type 3: Adult alone
Type 4: Child alone.
From this, different family literacy programmes
can be identified and sorted. The Basic Skills
Agency has always been very clear that
their model has to include a session with
the children on their own, a session with the
parents working on their literacy skills on their
own, and then a joint session with parents
and children. In that, they draw on the Kenan
model of family literacy, and perpetuate it.
Parallel typologies for family language
and numeracy could be based on this
approach, and indeed, when the Basic Skills
Agency developed its family numeracy pilot
programmes, it used a three-part model very
similar to its family literacy approach (Basic
Skills Agency 1998).
2.3.6 Rationale for programmes
FLLN programmes were built on an
assumption that the programmes encourage
home literacy, language and numeracy
activity, and benefit both parents and
children. In particular, the research into
parental involvement in reading activity in
the home, which then looked at cause and
effect between reading behaviour in the home
and children’s reading scores, encouraged
programmes to develop.
Many commentators have pointed to the
link between parents’ involvement in their
children’s literacy and their children’s
improvements in literacy learning. These
include the findings from the Haringey reading
project (Tizard, Schofield and Hewison 1982)
which involved the following initiative: Children
took school-reading books home and parents
were encouraged to help their children by
talking about stories, listening to children’s
oral reading with minimal intervention and
ensuring that the shared reading experiences
remained enjoyable. Tizard et al. found that
the programme produced significant reading
test gains. They found that children who
read to their parents on a regular basis made
significant gains, in fact greater gains than
children receiving an equivalent amount of
extra reading instruction by reading specialists
at school. The research design included two
follow-ups, one year and three years on;
both showed the children’s gains had been
maintained. (However, for a failure to replicate
the Haringey effect in a different context, see
Hannon 1987, Hannon and Jackson 1987.)
The rationale for family literacy started by
drawing on longitudinal data sets. ALBSU
(1993) commissioned research into the links
between parents’ literacy difficulties and their
children’s literacy achievements drawing on the
National Child Development Study. The study
found that children of parents who reported
having literacy difficulties were around twice
as likely as others to be in the lowest quartile
nationally on reading test scores.
Hannon, however, argued that ‘correlation is
one thing, identification quite another’ (Hannon
1999:128). He contended that:
There is an overlap between families where
parents have literacy difficulties and families
where children have low literacy achievement
but it is an extremely small overlap.
(Hannon 1999:128)
He urged caution in over-readily drawing
conclusions about a direct correlation between
an increase in literacy levels in parents’ skills
and a consequent increase in children’s
literacy. He argued, with Auerbach, that
The context provided by parents and their
consistent support may be more important
than any transfer of skills.
(Auerbach 1989:171)
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More recently, Bynner and Parsons (2006)
reported findings from the age 34 sweep of
the British Cohort Study 1970, a lifetime cohort
study following (originally) all the people born
in Britain in one week in April 1970. In 2004,
the cohort members were re-contacted and
both their own and their children’s literacy
was tested. Correlating the two sets of scores
showed that children whose parents had the
poorest grasp of literacy were much more
likely to have poor literacy themselves than
children whose parents had good literacy
skills. However, the logic of this finding is
reversed: what needs to be shown is what
proportion of low-scoring children had parents
with low literacy scores. This analysis was
done by Hannon (1999) for the ALBSU (1993)
data and showed that the great majority of
children with poor literacy did not have parents
with poor literacy. The data reported by
Bynner and Parsons (2006) is in a form which
does not permit a similar analysis. However,
until it can be shown that selecting families on
the basis that the parents have poor literacy,
also selects a high proportion of the children
who are at risk of literacy failure, research
appears to provide no firm support for the
theory of intergenerational transfer and for
intergenerational programmes.
However, Hannon did admit that it is probably
safe to conclude that the parental involvement
form of family literacy benefits children’s literacy
(Hannon 1999). He defined what he called
the ‘restricted’ model as being that provision
whose availability is restricted to those families
where parents are interested, willing, and
able to participate as learners themselves. He
drew on the two Brooks et al. studies (1996,
1997), to conclude that there was evidence
from evaluations in Britain and the USA to
support claims that such programmes have
positive educational effects for parents and
children, but added, ‘There is none to show
that they have greater effects, or are more
cost-effective, than separate child-focused
or adult-focused programmes’ (Hannon
1999:133); this point is addressed further in
chapter 3. For that reason, Hannon argued
that the rhetoric about ‘restricted’ programmes
lacked research support. Hannon therefore
warned against the rhetoric implicit within
these studies, which asserts that parents
with literacy difficulties will have low-achieving
children, and that low-achieving children will
have parents with literacy difficulties.
Family literacy, language and numeracy
practices can be understood as being multiple,
in that they involve many generations; and
multiple languages are involved when families
make meaning (Pahl 2006). Families bring
creativity to these multiple practices. They tell
stories, create texts and artefacts, and give
children space when they listen to them and
support their meaning making with words and
numbers. By building on families’ strengths,
as Zentella has suggested, families’ cultural
resources can grow (Zentella 2005). Many
practitioners already do this, and this should
be celebrated.
In the next three chapters, FLLN programmes
in a number of countries will be described in
relation to the considerations outlined above,
about the nature of FLLN programmes and
their relationship to values, cultures, literacies,
numeracies and languages.
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3.1 What is a meta-study?
As we conceptualised it, a meta-study
includes but goes well beyond a narrative
review, and is somewhere between a ‘best-
evidence synthesis’ and a systematic review.
1. A narrative review does not usually gather,
tabulate and compare the quantitative
evidence for impact from separate studies;
nor does it judge some categories of
evidence as deserving more weight than
others. It may judge studies with large
samples as more important, and/or report
findings with statistical significances
attached, but on the whole it is a continuous
text devoid of numerical tables.
2. A best-evidence synthesis goes beyond
this by explicitly asking what the strongest
evidence is for various sub-questions within
the field being analysed. For example, if
the question being addressed is ‘What
methods are effective in boosting adult
learners’ literacy and numeracy skills?’,
the various forms of evidence would be
arranged in a hierarchy like this:
randomised controlled trials (RCTs)
other controlled trials
matched-groups pre-test/post-test
quasi-experiments
unmatched-groups pre-test/post-test
studies
one-group pre-test/post-test studies
correlational studies
other quantitative evidence, e.g. adults’
views on their own progress
case studies
judgements of experts on factors thought
to correlate with better progress
other qualitative studies.
3. A systematic review goes beyond a best-
evidence synthesis by taking account of
all and only the most rigorous evidence
available on the question posed. A systematic
review addressing a question about effective
teaching does not proceed down the
hierarchy beyond other controlled trials, since
less rigorous designs fail to control possible
unknown confounding factors.
3.2 This meta-study
This meta-study went beyond a best-evidence
synthesis by analysing the quantitative
evidence from a range of evaluations
conducted around the world (this chapter),
and by providing a complementary qualitative
commentary on a overlapping set of studies
(chapters 4 and 5), but not as far as a
systematic review in rejecting all but controlled
trials. This is because we already knew that
there are very few controlled trials in the FLLN
field: the REAL (Raising Early Achievement in
Literacy) project conducted by Peter Hannon
and colleagues in Sheffield, Anne Morgan’s
Dialogic Reading study, also in Sheffield, and
the In-Depth Study within the evaluation of
Even Start in the United States seem to be the
only genuine RCTs (though the PEFaL project
in Malta could be considered a ‘naturally-
occurring RCT’). We discovered no non-
randomised controlled trials, and most of the
evidence consists of data from matched-group
and one-group pre-test/post-test studies.
We also discovered no previous review
attempting a quantitative analysis of the
type presented in this chapter. The most
comprehensive recent survey of the field is
the volume edited by Wasik (2004), and that is
noticeably lacking in quantitative information
(though the little which is given on FLAME has
been used in this report).
3.3 The projects covered
Relevant projects were identified from the
research team members’ prior knowledge and
from following reference trails. Table 1 lists the 16
projects identified and analysed alphabetically,
and gives some basic information about them.
They yielded 19 studies in all, since three
projects were the subject of two studies each.
Two studies provided data only on parents
(one of these only because its data on children
could not be accessed at the time of writing),
five only on children, and 12 on both.
Some well-known studies have not been
included, in particular the Perry Preschool
Chapter 3: Analysis of the quantitative evidence
Greg Brooks with
Felicity Rees and
Alison Pollard
From their
inception in the
mid-1980s, family
programmes were
intended for families
in particular need,
both economically
and in terms of
being thought to
require a boost
to their literacy,
language or
numeracy skills.
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Project in Ypsilanti, Michigan, better known
as High/Scope, plus several other US
programmes analysed in detail in Karoly
et al. (1998). This is because none of those
studies gathered quantitative literacy,
language or numeracy data on either
parents or children. Two British studies were
excluded for the same reason (Keeping Up
with the Children (Brooks et al. 2003), and
the PEEP Enabling Parents study (Sylva
et al., forthcoming)).
Table 1 shows that most of the projects
with quantitative evidence were still from the
English-speaking world, especially England,
but there was also some evidence from
non-English-speaking countries (Malta,
Turkey, and a Zulu-speaking area of
KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa), and two of
the programmes investigated were bilingual
(PEFaL in Malta, FLAME in Chicago). The
MOCEP programme in Turkey has one of
the longest-running research projects in the
field – it began in 1986, and was based on
a programme which had begun in 1982.
PEFaL in Malta collected data on progress
in both Maltese and English. As the full
name of FLAME implies, it was designed for
Spanish-speakers, and it was intended to
benefit the skills of parents and children in
both Spanish and English. Part of the Family
Literacy for New Groups initiative in England
was concerned with linguistic minority families;
most of the parents who participated in that
aspect were from Mirpuri Punjabi- and Urdu-
speaking backgrounds.
From their inception in the mid-1980s, family
programmes were intended for families in
particular need, both economically and in
terms of being thought to require a boost to
their literacy, language or numeracy skills. This
was true of all the programmes studied for this
review. For example, FLAME served a poor
Latino neighbourhood in Chicago, MOCEP
very deprived communities in several parts of
Turkey, PEFaL several such communities in
Malta. And although Bookstart had expanded
to cover potentially every baby in Britain by
about 2003, the two local evaluations analysed
here were based in disadvantaged areas of
Birmingham and Sheffield.
3.4 The analyses
The detailed quantitative analyses are provided
in Appendix A. The point of going into the level
of detail shown in the analyses was to tease
out exactly which findings can be supported
by quantitative evidence, and the strength of
that evidence.
The following are methodological observations
arising from the analyses.
•   The information provided was sometimes 
patchy, even in well-funded and well-
regarded evaluations.
•   Some studies for which great importance is 
claimed had sample sizes too small to bear
that weight, e.g. Bookstart in Birmingham.
•   Exactly half the studies provided data only 
or mainly from an intervention group, with
no or few comparison group data.
•   Even within the other eight studies, none 
of the programmes had been compared
with an alternative intervention, only with
‘no treatment’.
•   Most of the evidence arises from test 
data or, in the case of such aspects as
self-confidence, validly from self-report
questionnaires, but for some aspects less
direct measures were used, e.g. teachers’
reports about parents and children. Reliance
on indirect measures of impact was more
frequent with regard to parents than
children, and there were fewer test data on
parents than on children.
•   As mentioned at the end of chapter 2, 
much has been made in the literature
of the ‘synergy’ effect for parents of
intergenerational programmes, that is,
the claim that parents attending family
programmes make better progress than
other adults attending general adult
education classes. There has still been
no attempt to test this notion empirically.
This would require a well-designed study
(preferably an RCT) in which half the
participating parents receive a normal
family learning programme while the other
half at first receive only the adult education
component, and they and their children
receive the rest of the programme later.
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Reference number
and name
1. Bookstart – 2 studies
2. Boots Books for Babies
3. Child-to-child programme
4. Dialogic reading
5. Early Start (Basic Skills Agency)
6. Even Start – 2 studies
7. Family literacy demonstration
programmes (Basic Skills
Agency)
8. Family literacy for new groups
(Basic Skills Agency)
9. Family literacy and numeracy
in prisons (Basic Skills Agency)
literacy, with some
language and
numeracy data
literacy
literacy, language and
numeracy
literacy and language
language
literacy and language
literacy
literacy and language
literacy and numeracy
England
(1A Birmingham)
England
(1B Sheffield)
England (Nottingham
City and County)
South Africa
(Mpumalanga district,
KwaZulu-Natal)
England (Sheffield)
England
USA (6A – In-Depth
Study)
USA (6B – National
Study)
England and Wales
(Cardiff, Liverpool,
Norfolk, North Tyneside)
England and Wales
England
Age 2-3: 28 + 29
Ages 5 and 7: n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
2001/02: 592
2003: 435, of whom 213
returned qres
101 + 98 reducing to 
84 + 75
?
361
349
43
Age 2–3: 28 + 29
Ages 5 and 7: 41 + 41
23 + 23
c.1700 + c.600
20 + 12 
20 + 20 reducing to
14–17 + 14–17
(2001/02: n/a)
2003: not stated but
presumably 435
101 + 98 reducing to 
84 + 75
?
392
316
44
Matched groups,
post-test only
Matched groups,
post-test only
Unmatched groups,
‘post-test’ only
One group pre/post
study, with opportunistic
comparison group at
post-test
Matched groups RCT
One group pre/post
study
RCT
One group pre/post
study
One group pre/post
study, with comparison
group only at 3-year
follow-up
One group pre/post
study
One group pre/post
study
Table 1: The projects analysed quantitatively, and basic information about them 1 of 2
Literacy, language
or numeracy
Country
(and area*)
Numbers ** of Research design
parents children
* Areas are named only when very specific.
** Where two numbers are shown, the second is for the control/comparison group.
RCT = randomised controlled trial
n/a = not available
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
www.cfbt.com 23
Reference number
and name
10. Family numeracy pilot
programmes (Basic Skills
Agency)
11. FLAME – Family Literacy –
Aprendiendo, Mejorando,
Educando (Learning, Improving,
Educating)
12.
Ħ
ilti clubs
13. MOCEP (Mother-Child
Education Program)
14. PEEP (Peers Early Education
Partnership) – 2 studies
15. PEFaL (Parent Empowerment
through Family Literacy)
16. REAL (Raising Early
Achievement in Literacy)
numeracy
literacy and language
literacy and language
literacy, language and
numeracy
literacy, language and
numeracy
literacy
literacy, language
England
USA
(Chicago)
Malta
Turkey
England (Oxford) (14A –
Foundation PEEP)
England (Oxford) (14B –
Birth To School Study)
Malta
England (Sheffield)
517
189
257
102 + 115
n/a
294 +297 reducing to 
210 + 225
46 + 21
88 + 88
215 overall; 148 + 144 
in matched groups
120
365
102 + 115
64 + 83
301 + 303 reducing to
215 + 230
54 + 40
88 + 88
Mainly one group
pre/post study, with
matched group sub-
samples of children
One group pre/post
study
One group, post-test-
only study
Matched-groups
pre-test/post-test
quasi-experimental
studies
Matched-groups,
pre-test/post-test
quasi-experimental
studies
Quasi-RCT
RCT
Table 1: The projects analysed quantitatively, and basic information about them 2 of 2
Literacy, language
or numeracy
Country
(and area*)
Numbers ** of Research design
parents children
* Areas are named only when very specific.
** Where two numbers are shown, the second is for the control/comparison group.
RCT = randomised controlled trial
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
www.cfbt.com 24
•   Though we talk throughout this report of 
‘parents’, very few fathers took part in any
of these studies – typically under 5%, and
none at all in the Turkish programme, which
was after all intended only for mothers – but
this is a general pattern, as documented
extensively by Goldman (2005).
•   There is more evidence for literacy (17 
studies) and language (15 studies) than for
numeracy (8 studies); only one of the latter
had numeracy as its sole focus, and in
several others it was a subsidiary focus.
•   The fact that rather few null or negative 
results appear in the findings suggests that
there may be publication bias in this field as
in others – for evidence and arguments on
publication bias see Torgerson (2003, 2005;
Torgerson et al. 2004). That is, positive
findings are more likely to be reported (some
researchers are reluctant to report negative
or null findings) and academic journals and
other outlets are also less likely to accept
reports of negative or null findings. This
is a further reason to take the findings
summarised below with some caution.
3.5 Findings
The findings are presented in full in Appendix
A; a summary is provided in Table 2. In the
‘Benefits for parents’ column the ages shown
are not of course the parents’ but those of
their children when the data were gathered.
Also, absence of mention of a form of benefit
does not mean that there was no benefit, only
that no evidence was gathered on it.
In Table 2 the studies are listed in decreasing
order of the strength of their research designs,
with randomised controlled trials (RCTs) at
the top and a one-group post-test-only study
at the bottom. The numbers of parents and
children are shown as further guidance on
the strength of the evidence; in general, less
weight should be attached to very small
studies (the Child-to-Child programme,
Dialogic Reading, both Bookstart studies)
though at the opposite end of the scale
diminishing returns operate – the numbers
in the Boots Books for Babies study are
impressive but smaller numbers would have
made the same point.
The description ‘Matched pairs RCT’ for REAL
and Dialogic reading means that in those
studies the experimenters first identified closely
similar pairs of, respectively, families and
children, then allocated one member of each
pair randomly to their experimental group, and
the other to the control group. This is an even
stronger design than an RCT where random
allocation is carried out without knowing any of
the characteristics of the participants.
The reason for placing the Birth To School
Study of PEEP in Oxford immediately after
the RCTs is this. The data in this study were
analysed using a relatively new statistical
technique called Propensity Score Matching
(PSM) which was developed precisely for
designs where random assignment to
experimental and control groups is not possible,
for example where an intervention is already
established, or must be allocated to a particular
area or sample. (In this case, PEEP was
already established in four deprived areas of
south Oxford.) In place of matching individuals
or groups beforehand, PSM matches them
after the event. Using background and other
data gathered at the beginning of a study,
for each member of the experimental group
PSM identifies the member of the comparison
group who is most like that member of the
experimental group; when as many such pairs
as possible have been identified statistical
analysis proceeds on the basis of the groups
so constituted. PSM is said by its advocates
to go some way towards allowing for the
differences between groups that random
allocation attempts to eliminate and non-
random allocation cannot, and therefore to
sustain more robust and reliable statistical
comparisons than conventional methods of
comparing non-randomised groups.
On reading down Table 2 it is striking that the
four studies with the strongest designs (REAL,
Dialogic Reading, the Even Start In-Depth
Study, PEFaL) reported hardly any positive
results, and many fewer than any other group
of four studies. This is actually the reason
for preferring evidence from RCTs where it is
available: what appear to be strong findings
from weaker designs might not have appeared
so if there had been properly-constituted
control groups, since they might have made
progress similar to the intervention groups.
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
www.cfbt.com 25
Reference number
and name
16. REAL
4. Dialogic reading
6. Even Start –
In-Depth Study
114B. PEEP (BTSS)
13. MOCEP
14A. PEEP
(Foundation)
10. Family numeracy
pilot programmes
Matched pairs RCT
Matched pairs RCT
RCT
Matched-groups,
pre-test/post-test
quasi-experimental
study
Matched-groups
pre-test/post-test
quasi-experimental
study
Matched-groups,
pre-test/post-test
quasi-experimental
study
Matched-groups,
pre/post
n/a
n/a
Benefit to general educational
qualifications but not to literacy
Some benefit to mothers’ caregiving
Age 6: Benefits to mothers’ child-
rearing practices and self-esteem
Age 7 follow-up: Benefit to mothers’
child-rearing practices maintained,
and mothers reported as more
involved with their children’s schools
n/a
Age 5: Benefits to mothers’ self-
confidence and involvement with their
childrens schools; also, tutors reported
benefits to mothers’ numeracy and
ability to help their children
3-year follow-up: Parents rated by
their children’s teachers as more
involved than comparison group with
their children’s schools
Age 5: Benefit to literacy but not
vocabulary
Age 7: Benefit to literacy of children
whose mothers had no educational
qualifications, but not overall
Probably no benefit, and very small if
it existed
No advantage over controls
Mixed results, no overall benefit
Ages 3, 4 and 5: Benefits for literacy
and language, but possibly negative
for numeracy
Age 6: Benefits for literacy, language
and numeracy
Age 7 follow-up: Benefits for literacy
and numeracy maintained
End of schooling: higher average grade
University: higher proportion attending
Ages 4 and 5: Benefits for literacy,
language and numeracy
Age 5: Benefit to early numeracy
3-year follow-up: Participating children
rated by their teachers somewhat
better in school than comparison
group
Table 2: Summar y of findings from the quantitative analyses 1 of 3
Research design
88 + 88 
n/a
101 + 98 reducing 
to 84 + 75
294 +297 reducing 
to 210 + 225
102 + 115
n/a
517
88 + 88 
20 + 20 reducing 
to 14–17 + 14–17
101 + 98 reducing 
to 84 + 75
15. PEFaL Quasi-RCT Mixed results, no overall benefit46 + 21 54 + 40
301 + 303 reducing 
to 215 + 230
102 + 115
64 + 83 
215 overall; 148
+ 144 in matched 
groups
Numbers of
parents children
Benefits for
parents children
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
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www.cfbt.com 26
Reference number
and name
1A. Bookstart –
Birmingham
1B. Bookstart –
Sheffield
2. Boots Books for
Babies
3. Child-to-child
programme
5. Early Start
6. Even Start – NEIS
Matched groups, post-
test only
Matched groups,
post-test only
Unmatched groups,
‘post-test’ only
One group
pre/post study,
with opportunistic
comparison group at
post-test
One group pre/post
study
One group pre/post
study
Age 2½–3: Benefit to ability to help
their children
n/a
n/a
n/a
Self-reported benefits to self-
confidence, language, ability to
help their children, education and
employment
No benefit
Age 2½–3: Benefit to engagement
with books
Ages 5 and 7: Benefits to literacy
and numeracy
Benefits to literacy and numeracy
Benefit to use of libraries
Benefits for literacy, language and
numeracy, but very small
Benefits for children’s language
reported by the parents
(evidence not accessed)
Table 2: Summar y of findings from the quantitative analyses 2 of 3
Research design
Age 2–3: 28 + 29
Ages 5 and 7: n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
2001/02: 592
2003: 435, of
whom 213 returned
qres
?
Age 2–3: 28 + 29
Ages 5 and 7:
41 + 41
23 + 23
c.1700 + c.600
20 + 12
7. Family literacy
demonstration
programmes
One group pre/post
study, with comparison
group only at 2½-year
follow-up
Benefits to literacy and ability to
help their children
3- and 9-month follow-ups:
Continuing improvement in above
benefits
2½-year follow-up: Continuing
improvement in above benefits, plus
majority had done further study,
some had gained employment, and
participating parents were rated by
their children’s teachers as more
involved with their children’s schools
than comparison group
Age 3–6: Benefits to literacy and
language
3-month follow-up: Further benefit
9-month and 2½-year follow-ups:
Benefits sustained
2½-year follow-up: Participating
children rated by their teachers
somewhat better in school than
comparison group
361 392
2001/02: n/a
2003: not stated
but presumably
435
?
Numbers of
parents children
Benefits for
parents children
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
a review of programmes and practice in the UK and internationally
www.cfbt.com 27
Reference number
and name
8. Family literacy for
new groups
9. Family literacy
and numeracy in
prisons
11. FLAME
12.
Ħ
ilti clubs
One group pre/post
study
One group pre/post
study
One group pre/post
study
One group post-test-
only study
Linguistic minorities and Year 4:
Benefits to literacy and ability to help
their children
(Year 7: Not enough evidence)
Benefits to literacy, numeracy and
ability to help their children
Benefits to language, ability to help
their children, and involvement with
their children’s schools
Benefits to self-confidence, ability to
help their children, and involvement
with their children’s schools
Linguistic minorities and Year 4:
Benefits to literacy and language
(Year 7: Not enough evidence)
Benefits to literacy and language
Benefits to literacy
Questionnaire evidence of benefits
to literacy and positive attitudes to
school
Table 2: Summar y of findings from the quantitative analyses 3 of 3
Research design
349
43
189
257
316
44
120
365
Numbers of
parents children
Benefits for
parents children
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
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www.cfbt.com 28
Non-randomised comparison groups are by
definition already different from the intervention
groups to start with, and any differences in
progress between groups in such designs
cannot be attributed unequivocally to the
intervention. Despite this, where RCTs are
largely lacking, as here, judicious use has
to be made of evidence from studies with
other designs.
3.6 Benefits for parents
What is immediately noticeable in the column
of benefits for parents is the dearth of
evidence on their skills.
•   Only three studies (Family literacy 
demonstration programmes, Family
literacy for new groups, Family literacy and
numeracy in prisons), all of which had
one-group designs, reported benefit to
parents’ literacy, and the two studies with
strong designs which reported a literacy
finding for parents (Even Start In-Depth
Study, PEFaL) showed no benefit, though
Even Start did show a benefit to general
education, as did the Family literacy
demonstration programmes (‘further study’)
and Early Start.
•   Only two studies (Early Start, FLAME) 
reported benefit to parents’ spoken
language.
•   Only two studies (Family numeracy pilot 
programmes, Family literacy and numeracy
in prisons) reported benefit to parents’
numeracy.
On balance, this probably does mean that
parents’ skills benefited, but the situation cries
out for much more systematic gathering of
data on this in a series of rigorous studies.
Most family programmes have as a further
aim for parents that their ability to help their
children’s education should benefit. Eight
studies report such benefits (Family numeracy
pilot programmes, Bookstart in Birmingham,
Family literacy demonstration programmes,
Early Start, Family literacy for new groups,
Family literacy and numeracy in prisons,
FLAME,
Ħ
ilti clubs). While this is probably
cumulative enough to be convincing, it should
be noted that none of these studies was an
RCT, only two had comparison groups, and
the rest were one-group studies.
A range of wider benefits for parents was
reported:
•   to mothers’ child-rearing practices (MOCEP, 
the PEEP Birth To School Study)
•   to parents’ employment (Family literacy 
demonstration programmes, Early Start)
•   to parents’ self-confidence (MOCEP, Family 
numeracy pilot programmes, Early Start,
Ħ
ilti clubs)
•   parents being more involved with their 
children’s schools (MOCEP, Family
numeracy pilot programmes, Family literacy
demonstration programmes, FLAME,
Ħ
ilti
clubs). Some of these reports came at
follow-up stages.
3.7 Benefits for children
Compared with the dearth of evidence on
benefits to parents’ skills there was much
more on children’s skills, though some of it
was mixed.
•   Literacy: 12 studies reported benefits 
from test data (REAL at age 5, MOCEP,
Foundation PEEP, the PEEP Birth To School
Study, Bookstart in Birmingham at ages 5
and 7, Bookstart in Sheffield, Boots Books
for Babies, Child-to-Child programme,
Family literacy demonstration programmes,
Family literacy for new groups, Family
literacy and numeracy in prisons, FLAME)
and one from self-report questionnaire data
(
Ħ
ilti clubs). Two other studies reported
positive effects on precursors to literacy
(Bookstart in Birmingham: engagement
with books at age 2½; Boots Books for
Babies: use of libraries). However, in REAL
the effect on literacy had washed out by
age 7, except for children whose mothers
had no formal qualifications; and the other
three RCTs (Dialogic Reading, Even Start
In-Depth Study, PEFaL) reported no
advantage over controls.
•   Language: eight studies repor ted benefits, 
all from test data (MOCEP, Foundation
PEEP, the PEEP Birth To School Study,
Child-to-Child programme, Family literacy
demonstration programmes, Family literacy
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
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for new groups, Early Start, Family literacy
and numeracy in prisons) but the relevant
study with the strongest design, REAL,
reported no advantage over controls.
•   Numeracy: six studies reported benefits, 
all from test data (MOCEP, Foundation
PEEP, Family numeracy pilot programmes,
both Bookstart studies, Child-to-Child
programme), but the PEEP Birth To School
Study’s main finding on numeracy was
negative – the comparison group made
better progress.
For all three skills, this mixed picture probably
means, on balance, that the benefits were
genuine, but again firmer evidence would
be desirable.
The only wider benefit for children reported as
occurring during a programme was
Ħ
ilti clubs’
report of more positive attitudes to school.
3.8 Long-term benefits
All too often educational innovations have an
impact while they are running but the effect
wears off afterwards. Wherever possible,
therefore, participants should be followed up
at some later point. Of the 19 studies analysed
here, five reported follow-up data gathered
some while after the end of the programme:
REAL, MOCEP, Foundation PEEP, Family
numeracy pilot programmes (once each), and
Family literacy demonstration programmes
(three times). Also, the two Bookstart studies
in effect gathered only follow-up data, since
the ‘intervention’ (the gift of the book pack)
had occurred years earlier. (The PEEP Birth To
School Study gathered data on children at four
points and on parents at five, but all of these
were while the study was running.)
The relevant data, extracted from Table 2, are
repeated in Table 3.
The findings can be summarised by saying
that only REAL reported evidence of wash-out,
and then only partially. The most impressive
and most long-term results were from MOCEP
– no other programme analysed here has
been in existence long enough to produce
such findings.
3.9 Some tentative insights
In looking at the different studies we were
struck by the fact that particularly impressive
results are quoted where programmes worked
with mothers who were in a ‘traditional’
family setting. We also found it striking that
programmes such as FLAME in Chicago and
MOCEP in Turkey may involve literacy and/or
numeracy, but that these are part of a broader
vision of the role of the parent – community
integration and involvement in FLAME, health
and child-rearing in MOCEP. Similar insights
come from the programmes in Nepal and
South Africa analysed in chapter 4.
FLAME targets Hispanic families, and it may
be that, among groups who do not have the
main national language as their mother tongue,
access to schooling is seen as a passport to
greater opportunity.
FLAME participants are described as
‘mothers… [who] never went out of their
houses without their husbands’. It is easy
to see that a broadly conceived and well-
structured programme could benefit such
women, giving them contact with their peers
in a situation that enables them to build self-
esteem by developing parenting skills and
to participate more fully in everyday life. The
Turkish programme was targeted specifically
at mothers and children, and reported
increased self-esteem among participant
mothers, at the same time as a decrease in
self-esteem among the control group. This
could be because the programme looked
at ‘positive and negative’ discipline within
the home, and the evaluation asked specific
questions about whether parents shouted at
or beat their children. Raising awareness of
enlightened discipline, and providing mothers
with strategies to implement it (e.g. by paying
attention to children, setting up appropriate
settings and activities for them) is likely to raise
self-esteem, whereas asking questions about
‘negative’ discipline of parents who may feel
they do not have strategies to cope other than
by shouting at or beating their children is likely
to undermine self-esteem.
It is difficult to imagine a British study asking
such sensitive questions of parents. It is often
difficult to gain access to homes to observe
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
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Reference number
and name
16. REAL
13. MOCEP
14A. PEEP
(Foundation)
10. Family numeracy
pilot programmes
7. Family literacy
demonstration
programmes
n/a
Age 7: Benefit to mothers’ child-rearing
practices maintained, and mothers
reported as more involved with their
children’s schools
n/a
3-year follow-up: Parents rated by their
children’s teachers as more involved
than comparison group with their
children’s schools
3- and 9-month follow-ups: Continuing
improvement in benefits to literacy and
ability to help their children
2½-year follow-up: Continuing
improvement in above benefits, plus
majority had done further study,
some had gained employment, and
participating parents were rated by their
children’s teachers as more involved
with their children’s schools than
comparison group
Age 7: Benefit to literacy of children
whose mothers had no educational
qualifications, but not overall
Age 7: Benefits for literacy and
numeracy maintained
End of schooling: higher average grade
University: higher proportion attending
Ages 5: Benefits for literacy, language
and numeracy maintained
3-year follow-up: Participating children
rated by their teachers somewhat
better in school than comparison group
3-month follow-up: Further benefit
9-month and 2½-year follow-ups:
Benefits sustained
2½-year follow-up: Participating children
rated by their teachers somewhat better
in school than comparison group
Table 3: Summar y of follow-up findings from the quantitative analyses
Long-term benefits for
parents children
parent-child interaction, perhaps because
parents feel that they fall short of an ideal
standard and are reluctant to be observed
failing. The authors of an evaluation of
Bookstart observe that ‘issues ranging from
housekeeping to safety and anxiety about how
the data may be used to judge the quality of
child care’ may be behind parents’ reluctance
to be observed.
Although this may not be a popular stance,
on the basis of the quantitative analyses
we wondered how far the real value of
family literacy and numeracy programmes
is the extent to which they encourage,
and give both parents and children the
opportunity to experience and develop
constructive dialogue (in the broadest sense
of ‘communication between individuals’). This
may be why particular success was reported
in programmes where the adults involved
were offered opportunities to exchange ideas
with one another – whether about issues
associated with childcare or about other
aspects of life and life skills. The Turkish study
referred to the fact that the follow-up survey
of children in school showed that their literacy
and numeracy scores were both related to
their pre-test scores in ‘pre-literacy’ skills, and
quoted this as evidence of the ‘importance of
literacy skills in initial school success’.
In relation to gender issues, the Turkish
evaluation reported greater gains for girls in
both pre-literacy and pre-numeracy skills at
the end of the programme. This finding may
be an effect of girls’ well-reported early
strengths in language development, or may
be to do with mothers being role models in
the programme.
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
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www.cfbt.com 31
Most of the programmes analysed here were
intensive, providing several hours of sessions
a week for up to 12 weeks in community
venues – certainly most of the programmes
developed by the Basic Skills Agency in Britain
followed this model. However, a few took a
quite different tack. In particular, MOCEP
delivered its programmes partly through home
visits, and REAL almost wholly so, and such
initiatives were not notably less successful.
There may be support here for the recent
greater diversity of programmes in England
noted by Hannon (2003), Hannon and Bird
(2004) and Hannon et al. (2007).
However that may be, family literacy, language
and numeracy programmes seem now to be
an established part of the educational scene
in several countries and to be spreading to
others. And despite the limitations of the
quantitative evidence analysed here, they have
a valuable part to play.
Effective and inclusive practices in family literacy, language and numeracy:
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www.cfbt.com 32
4.1 Introduction
This chapter deals with the qualitative evidence
from projects outside the UK. The relevant
projects are listed alphabetically by country
(or continent, in the case of Europe). In each
case, the project is described, and analysed
in relation to the values, epistemologies and
models set out in chapter 2. Where possible,
contact details are given.
This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of
all the projects in the world, but is intended to
provide practitioners and researchers with an
overview of the range of projects that have run in
the last five years, in a wide geographical spread,
drawing on a range of models and with