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A National Model for Family Literacy

The Long Beach Unified School District is part of national research released recently by the nonprofit National Center for Families Learning, showing that family literacy programs increase student achievement, expand parent engagement, improve adult reading behaviors and prepare parents to help their children with school.

The Toyota Family Literacy Program, which started in 2003 and was implemented in 30 cities, was the first comprehensive national family literacy program created to address the literacy needs of Latino and immigrant families with children in kindergarten through third grade.  The LBUSD program was funded as a TFLP in 2009.  LBUSD offers the program through its School for Adults, serving students ages one to eight and their families by providing adult education, parent education, early childhood or school-age education, and parent and child together time.  Many participants come from low-income families.  Most parents are engaged in English as a Second Language or Adult Basic Education courses at the School for Adults or local elementary school campus while their children are in another classroom learning age-appropriate skills.

Key findings about the LBUSD program include:

• Students enrolled in the third grade outperformed their school peers

• During the 2010-11 school year, parents almost doubled the number of school visits.

• The program exceeds state benchmarks year after year in adult education proficiency, preschool vocabulary and preschool alphabet knowledge.

• Parents made gains that were more than double the state reading proficiency benchmarks. 

• Children who entered kindergarten increased their English skills at a rate of 2.5 times more than the federal benchmark.  Children in the program leave preschool possessing the skills to succeed in kindergarten and beyond, and their parents gain the language and literacy skills to support them.  

• The program ranks in the 90th percentile for attendance and retention.

“We’re pleased to be part of the Toyota Family Literacy Program study,” said LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser.  “The study confirms what we have known for some time, based upon our experience.  Family literacy programs can make a tremendous, positive difference for students and their families by breaking the cycle of illiteracy.”

The national review included a synthesis of more than three years of data reports for seven selected TFLP communities, including Long Beach.

“These programs are laboratories of learning – not just for the families they serve but for the entire country as they provide a model of successfully engaging parents with low literacy in their children’s education,” said Sharon Darling, president & founder of the NCFL.

Last May, the NCFL and Toyota honored Long Beach School for Adults teacher Carolyn Blocker with the Toyota Teacher of the Year Award at the National Conference on Family Literacy in Louisville, Ky.