The Effect of Family Literacy Interventions on Children's Acquisition of Reading From Kindergarten to Grade 3: A Meta-Analytic Review

Dec. 25, 2008

Source: Review of Educational Research Vol. 78, Iss. 4; pg. 880-907. Dec 2008.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This review focuses on intervention studies that tested whether parent-child reading activities would enhance children's reading acquisition. The goal of this report is to review the scientific literature on the role played by parents in children's acquisition of literacy from kindergarten to Grade 3.

In this review, reading acquisition is a general term that refers to the early literacy behaviors of children in kindergarten and the more advanced behaviors of children in Grade 3.
Therefore, reading acquisition includes early literacy behaviors, such as knowledge of letter names and letter sounds, and early decoding abilities. In the present research, phonological awareness, a metalinguistic skill, was also included because of its well-established predictive relation to reading success (Ehri et al., 2001).
Reading acquisition also captures children's word recognition and reading comprehension in Grades 1 to 3. Children's spelling skills were also of interest, but the review conducted did not yield studies that focused on spelling skills. Although a few studies included kindergarten measures of early (i.e., invented) spelling, their number was too small to warrant a different outcome category. Hence, these early spelling skills were included in the early literacy category.


The database of studies included in this meta-analysis was established in three steps:
(a) a search of electronic databases, (b) a search of review articles, and (c) a search of the Reference sections of the articles selected in Steps 1 and 2.
The articles retained in the meta-analysis were those that met the following five selection criteria: (a) studies published in peer-reviewed journals, (b) studies that used an experimental or a quasi-experimental design, (c) studies that tested the hypothesis that parent involvement affects the acquisition of reading, (d) studies that included at least 5 participants, and (e) studies that reported statistics permitting the calculation or estimation of effect sizes or that reported effect sizes.

The combined results for the 16 intervention studies, representing 1,340 families, showed that parent involvement has a positive effect on children's reading acquisition. Further analyses revealed that interventions in which parents tutored their children using specific literacy activities produced larger effects than those in which parents listened to their children read books.
The three studies in which parents read to their children did not result in significant reading gains. When deciding which type of intervention to implement, educators will have to weigh a variety of factors such as the differences in effectiveness across the different types of intervention, the amount of resources needed to implement the interventions, and the reading level of the children.

Ehri, L. C., Nunes, S. R., Willows, D. M., Schuster, B. V., Yaghoub-Zadeh, Z., & Shanahan, T. (2001). Phonemic awareness instruction helps children learn to read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel's meta-analysis. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 250-287.

Updated: Mar. 05, 2009