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The Importance of Parental Involvement in their Children’s Literacy Practices


Why should parents become involved in their children’s literacy activities? The evidence about the benefits of parents being involved in their children’s education in general, and their children’s literacy activities in particular, is overwhelming. Research shows that parental involvement in their children’s learning positively affects the child’s academic performance (Fan & Chen, 2001) in both primary and secondary schools (Feinstein & Symons, 1999), leading to higher academic achievement, greater cognitive competence, greater problem-solving skills, greater school enjoyment, better school attendance and fewer behavioural problems at school (Melhuish, Sylva, Sammons et al., 2001). Similar impacts have also been identified with regards to literacy practices, including:


·         Early reading experiences with their parents prepare children for the benefits of formal literacy instruction. Indeed, parental involvement in their child’s reading has been found to be the most important determinant of language and emergent literacy (Bus, van Ijzendoorn & Pellegrini, 1995). Furthermore, parents who introduce their babies to books give them a head start in school and an advantage over their peers throughout primary school (Wade & Moore, 2000).


  • Involvement with reading activities at home has significant positive influences not only on reading achievement, language comprehension and expressive language skills (Gest, Freeman, Domitrovich, & Welsh, 2004), but also on pupils’ interest in reading, attitudes towards reading and attentiveness in the classroom (Rowe, 1991).


  • Parental involvement in their child’s literacy practices is a more powerful force than other family background variables, such as social class, family size and level of parental education (Flouri & Buchanan, 2004).


  • Research also shows that the earlier parents become involved in their children’s literacy practices, the more profound the results and the longer-lasting the effects (Mullis, Mullis, Cornille et al., 2004). Additionally, of all school subjects, reading has been found to be most sensitive to parental influences (Senechal & LeFevre, 2002). In turn, success in reading is a gateway to success in other academic areas as well (Jordan, Snow & Porsche, 2000).


  • Although parental involvement has the greatest effect in the early years, its importance to children’s educational and literacy outcomes continues into the teenage and even adult years (Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003). For example, Feinstein and Symons (1999) found that parental interest in their child’s education was the single most powerful predictor of achievement at age 16.


  • Finally, the National Reading Campaign promotes reading for pleasure throughout the whole community to demonstrate the varied ways in which reading can inspire and sustain people to develop their skills, with a focus on those most in need.  There is ample evidence that parents who promote the view that reading is a valuable and worthwhile activity have children who are motivated to read for pleasure (Baker & Scher, 2002).


The benefits of parental involvement extend beyond the realm of literacy and educational achievement. Studies show that children whose parents are involved show greater social and emotional development (Allen & Daly, 2002), including more resilience to stress, greater life satisfaction, greater self-direction and self-control, greater social adjustment, greater mental health, more supportive relationships, greater social competence, more positive peer relations, more tolerance, more successful marriages, and less delinquent behaviours (Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003).


It is therefore important that parents and carers are aware of the significant contribution they can make to their children’s learning by providing a stimulating environment around language, reading and writing as well as supporting at home the school’s literacy agenda, both during the early years as well as the primary and secondary years of schooling.





Allen, S. M. & Daly, K. (2002). The effects of father involvement: A summary of the research evidence. The FII-ONews, vol. 1, 1-11.

Baker, L. & Scher, D. (2002). Beginning readers' motivation for reading in relation to parental beliefs and home reading experiences. Reading Psychology, 23, 239-269.

Bus, A.G., van Ijzendoorn, M.H. & Pellegrini, A.D. (1995). Joint book reading makes for success in learning to read: A meta-analysis of intergenerational transmission of literacy. Review of Educational Research, 65, 1-21.

Crain-Thoreson, C. & Dale, P.S. (1992). Do early talkers become early readers? Linguistic precocity, preschool language and emergent literacy. Developmental Psychology, 28, 421-429.

Desforges, C. & Abouchaar, A. (2003). The impact of parental involvement, parental support and family education on pupil achievement and adjustment: A literature review. London: Department for Education and Skills.

Fan, X. & Chen, M. (2001). Parental Involvement and students’ academic achievement: A meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review, 13, 1-22.

Feinstein, L. & Symons, J. (1999). Attainment in secondary school. Oxford Economic Papers, 51, 300-321.

Flouri, E. & Buchanan, A. (2004). Early father's and mother's involvement and child's later educational outcomes. British Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 74, 141-153.

Gest, S.D., Freeman, N.R., Domitrovich, C.E. & Welsh, J.A. (2004). Shared book reading and children’s language comprehension skills: the moderating role of parental discipline practices. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 19, 319-336.

Jordan, G.E., Snow, C.E. & Porsche, M.V. (2000). Project EASE: The effect of a family literacy project on kindergarten students' early literacy skills. Reading Research Quarterly, 35, 524-546.

Melhuish, E., Sylva, C., Sammons, P., Siraj-Blatchford, I. & Taggart, B. (2001). Social, behavioural and cognitive development at 3-4 years in relation to family background. The effective provision of pre-school education, EPPE project. DfEE: London: The Institute of Education.

Mullis, R.L., Mullis, A.K., Cornille, T.A., Ritchson, A.D. & Sullender, M.S. (2004). Early literacy outcomes and parent involvement. Tallahassee, Fl: Florida State University.

Rowe, K. (1991). The influence of reading activity at home on students’ attitudes towards reading, classroom attentiveness and reading achievement: An application of structural equation modelling. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 61, 19-35.

Senechal, M. & LeFevre, J. (2002). Parental involvement in the development of children's reading skill: A five-year longitudinal study. Child Development, vol. 73, no 2, 445-460.

Wade, B. & Moore, M. (2000). A sure start with books. Early Years, 20, 39-46.


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