Parental involvement is the most important factor of early literacy success and scholastic achievement. When parents get involved in teaching their children to read from an early age, those children have a competitive edge. Moreover, parents can exert a strong influence in making sure their growing tweens and teens remain lifelong readers.
While both parents can and should be involved with teaching children to read, mothers are especially important teachers. Mothers who are more highly educated have greater success rates in providing their children with the cognitive and language skills that contribute to early success in school. Low literacy rates in pre-teen girls significantly predict child-bearing among teenagers in the U. S. Teen parents have unique needs and challenges, especially with literacy.
Research has shown that low-literate parents, particularly mothers, are more likely to exert a positive influence on their children’s academic achievement when they are able to enhance their own literacy skills.
Even in traditional households, encouraging lifelong reading can be a challenge, even when parents are literate. Studies show that 25% of students entering ninth grade read at “below basic” levels, unable to understand newspapers, news magazines or their own textbooks. Ruth Schoenbach of co-director WestEd postulates that happens because the reading changes, saying “”All of a sudden, they’re thrown into six different classes and carry huge, 25-pound textbooks with chapters, main ideas and summaries. It’s a completely different world.” Parents can help at home by creating fun and age-appropriate literacy activities for teens and tweens, including getting them library cards and letting them choose their own recreational reading materials. Bilingual teens and tweens should be encouraged to read in both languages.
In the final analysis, reading is not something we learn in the first few years of school and then set aside. Literacy is key to continued academic success and, ultimately, graduation. It’s imperative that parents create home environments and opportunities that encourage lifelong literacy in their teens and tweens and seek to improve their own literacy, if needed, to ensure their children’s success in school and beyond.
For many schools, a challenge might be to reach out to parents of the students. The Latino Family Literacy Project can train teachers to work with parents to increase the parent involvement efforts at their school with Hispanic parents.