Family Learning - helping parents to help children learn

Parental involvement in learning

Whether children attend public or private schools, they benefit when parents become involved in their education. According to the National Institute for Literacy, when parents or other family members frequently read to children entering kindergarten, those children were at a distinct advantage over children whose families read to them less often.

The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study found that "Children who were read to at least three times a week by a family member were almost twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in reading than children who were read to less than three times a week." The study also found that, of children who were read to at least three times a week:

* 76 percent had mastered the letter-sound relationship at the beginning of words, compared to 64 percent of children who were read to fewer than three times a week,

* 57 percent had mastered the letter-sound relationship at the end of words, compared to 43 percent who were read to fewer than three times a week,

* 15 percent had sight- word recognition skills, compared to 8 percent who were read to fewer than three times a week, and

* 5 percent could understand words in context, compared to 2 percent who were read to fewer than three times a week.

The positive impact of parental involvement in learning doesn't end with kindergarten. Having a variety of reading materials available at home helps older children with reading proficiency. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that, among students in the fourth grade, "The 68% of students who had three or more different types of reading materials at home performed at the Proficient level, while students who had two or fewer types of reading material at home performed at the Basic level. Students who had 4 types of reading material at home performed the highest."

Similarly, students who discussed their studies and who talked about reading at home had greater reading proficiency than those who did not. And students of all ages who regularly saw parents and other family members reading at home were positively influenced.

In addition to having a variety of reading materials available at home, discussing reading, and setting a good example by reading, there are a number of ways that parents can create and nurture a home learning environment. Although the Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork (TIPS) program from the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University is directed to teachers, it includes a number of excellent strategies that parents can implement to become active in their children's education.

Communicate: Regularly communicate with the teacher, either via parent-teacher conferences, weekly progress reviews, or homework reviews. Talk with the child, and have them share their schoolwork and school day experiences.

Volunteer: Volunteer to help out in the classroom or at other school activities.

Home Learning: Point out the links between schoolwork and real life situations. Go on family outings that reinforce the concepts being learned in school.

According to the National Education Association, parental involvement in learning is crucial. As evidence, they cite the following findings of research into parental involvement:

* When parents are involved in their children's education at home, they do better in school.

* And when parents are involved in school, children go farther in school - and the schools they go to are better.

* The family makes critical contributions to student achievement from preschool through high school.

* A home environment that encourages learning is more important to student achievement than income, education level or cultural background.

* Reading achievement is more dependent on learning activities in the home than in math or science.

* Reading aloud to children is the most important activity that parents can do to increase their child's chance of reading success. Talking to children about books and stories read to them also supports reading achievement.

* When children and parents talk regularly about school, children perform better academically.

* Three kinds of parental involvement at home are consistently associated with higher student achievement: actively organizing and monitoring a child's time, helping with homework and discussing school matters.

* The earlier the parent involvement begins in a child's educational process, the more powerful the effects.

* Positive results of parental involvement include improved student achievement, reduced absenteeism, improved behavior, and restored confidence among parents in their children's schooling.

There are many ways that parents can become involved in their children's education - the important thing is to become and stay involved!

About The Author

Brent Sitton is the founder of, which has Home Learning tools for parents. Children's Book Reviews include character trait examples and learning activities. -


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