ERIC Identifier: ED446340
Publication Date: 2000-11-00
Author: Hyslop, Nancy
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Reading English and Communication Bloomington IN.
Hispanic Parental Involvement in Home Literacy. ERIC Digest
People of Hispanic origin represent one of the largest minority groups in the
United States. For Hispanic students, success in school is a complex process,
dependent on both the actions of parents and teachers separately and also on
their interactions (Paratore et al. 1999).
The purpose of this digest is to provide an overview of:
problems Hispanic parents encounter as they become involved in their children's
programs that help Hispanic parents become more effective partners with their
children and their children's school,
resources that provide useful information for parents, teachers and
PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED BY HISPANIC PARENTS
are frequently unaware of practices essential to helping their children develop
academic skills. They may be confused about what the school expects from their
children and feel uncertain about how to help their children. Several recent
studies address the effects of cultural differences, parents' lack of
self-esteem, and a host of misconceptions, discussed below.
Recent studies by Hughes et al. (1999), Kelty (1997), and Paratore (1999)
explore reasons why some Hispanic parents are hindered by low self-esteem. They
found that some parents have been unsuccessful in school, and therefore the
entire school experience causes anxiety. Some feel that because of the language
barrier, they are powerless to make a difference in their children's education.
And some view teachers as the experts and do not feel comfortable questioning
The process of acculturation, internalizing a host culture's identity, is
more acute for some immigrants than others. Lambourne and Zinn (1993) found
immigrant families may go through psychological adaptations such as culture
shock as they encounter a new culture. Kelty (1997) found that because the
Hispanic culture emphasizes obedience and respect for adult authority, many
parents are more likely to communicate with their children in a direct style
than to engage their curiosity by talking with them and reading to them.
Consequently, the parents fail to lay a strong foundation for building academic
Although it is true that culture shock and low self-esteem play an important
part in understanding the problems Hispanic parents face, the literature suggest
that many other factors are also at work. Moles (1993) reported that in a recent
national survey of teachers, Hispanic parents' lack of interest and support was
the most frequently cited educational problem. However, according to Snow (1991)
"...even children with nurturing home literacy environments did poorly in
reading if school practices were inadequate."
Paratore et al. (1999) found evidence suggesting that despite limited English
proficiency, low levels of education, and few economic resources, when parents
were provided opportunities to learn from and collaborate with teachers, all
were willing and able to do so consistently and effectively. Yet in some cases
children still failed.
Kelty (1997) found evidence that Spanish speaking parents are comfortable
with parent conferences, interactive workshops and, to an extent, home visits.
These findings contradict previous research indicating that parent involvement
programs do not reach Hispanic parents.
Moreno and Lopez (1999) found the relationship between acculturation level
and personal, contextual, and involvement factors to be complex. They found that
although less acculturated Hispanic parents reported less knowledge about school
activities and more barriers to involvement, they had high levels of perceived
efficacy relevant to parent involvement, educational expectations and spousal
The study by Paratore et al. (1999), conducted in conjunction with their
Intergenerational Literacy Project, found that in all the Latino families
studied, the practice of family literacy was in an important and integral part
of family life long before parents joined the project. These researchers
concluded that "...looking to family literacy interventions as the primary
solution to the problems of school failure for many Latino children is to
dismiss the complexity of challenges they face both inside and outside of
EFFECTIVE PROGRAMS THAT HAVE HELPED HISPANIC PARENTS
ESL teachers looked at parent involvement and culture traits of Hispanics to
better incorporate Hispanic families into the school system. The project helped
teachers realize that cultural differences effect the ways in which students and
parents react to the school system. (Rodgers and Lyon 1999)
Short (1998) reports that eighteen states, most with high rates of
immigration, have developed Newcomer Programs for students who are recent
arrivals to the U.S. and have limited English proficiency. Forty three percent
of the programs offer classes to orient parents to the United States and 63%
offer adults ESL classes either through the program or the school district.
Parents of prekindergarten students in one public school in Texas received
instructions in developing a portfolio of their child's literacy development
which reflected literacy behavior at home. The parent/child workshop offers
parents specific ways to help their children at home and allows parents to be
active participants in their children's education. (Williams and Lundsteen 1997)
The Intergenerational Literacy Project began in 1993 and is now in its sixth
year. This project is one component of a partnership between a local university
and an urban community where the majority of families are new immigrants to the
United States. The project has three goals:
to provide opportunities for adults to read and respond to literacy materials of
to provide a selection of books, strategies and ideas for adults to share with
their children in order to support their literacy learning;
to provide a forum through which adults can share their family literacy
experiences. (Paratore et al. 1999)
Project FLAME (Family Literacy: Apprendiendo, Mejorando, Educando [Learning,
Improving, Educating]) is a family literacy program developed in 1989 by
Rodriguez-Brown and Shanahan to train parents in different strategies to help
their children's literacy learning at home. The objectives of this program are
to (1) increase the ability of Hispanic parents to provide literacy
opportunities for their children; (2) increase parents' ability to act as
positive role models; (3) improve the Hispanic parents' skills so that they can
more effectively initiate, encourage, support, and extend their children's
literacy learning, and (4) increase and improve relationships between Hispanic
families and the schools. (Rodriguez-Brown et al. 1999)
AVANCE is a preschool parenting program in San Antonio that incorporates
family culture to achieve significant success with recent and second-generation
Mexican-immigrant families. The program targets low-income mothers with young
children. Infants and toddlers accompany their mothers to the program and are
placed in day care that provides developmental and educational activities. (Romo
INFORMATION RESOURCES FOR PARENTS, TEACHERS AND
"Home Literacy Activities: Perceptions and Practices of
Hispanic Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities" (Hughes et al. 1999)
investigated Hispanic parents' perceptions and practices with respect to home
reading activities. Parents in this study reported using a wide variety of
reading activities on a regular basis, but experienced frustration in helping
their children at home.
"Involving Hispanic Parents in Improving Educational Opportunities for Their
Children" (Sosa 1996) discusses logistical barriers such as time, money, safety
and child care; attitudinal barriers such as disagreements, dissatisfaction and
communication problems; and expectations barriers as forces which hinder
involvement of migrant/immigrant parents. This study provides alternative ways
to involve these parents as well as strategies to cultivate more successful
"Exploring Home-School Connections: A Family Literacy Perspective on
Improving Urban Schools" (Nistler and Maiers 1999) contributes an understanding
of what constitutes family literacy and discusses family literacy programs in
terms of three very distinct categories of approaches: Parent Involvement
Programs, Intergenerational Programs, and Research on Naturally Occurring Family
"An Examination of Hispanic Parent Involvement in Early Childhood Programs"
(Kelty 1997) developed a bilingual survey to register the feelings of parents
toward involvement in their children's preschool and kindergarten and to
determine the unique needs of parents during interactions with the schools. The
survey was tested with 50 parents, and the results were tabulated to determine
differences between the feelings of Hispanic and non-Hispanic parents.
"Latina Mothers' Involvement in their Children's Schooling: The Role of
Maternal Education and Acculturation" (Moreno and Lopez 1999) investigated the
influence of language proficiency and family socio-economic status on Latina
mothers' involvement in their children's schooling. This study specifically
investigated the influence of sociocultural factors on (1) personal and
psychological factors, (2) contextual factors, and (3) levels of involvement.
Hughes, M. T. Schumm, J.S., Vaughn, S. (1999).
Home literacy activities: perceptions and practices of Hispanic parents of
children with learning disabilities. In Learning Disabilities Quarterly 22 (3),
Kelty, J. M. (1997). "An examination of Hispanic parent involvement in early
Lambourne, K., and Zinn, M. B. (1993). "Education, Race, and Family: Issues
for the 1990s". East Lansing, MI: Julian Samora Research Institute, Michigan
Moles, O.C. (1993) Collaboration between schools and disadvantaged parents.
In.F. Chavkin (Ed.), "Families and schools in a pluralistic society" (pp.
21-53). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Moreno, R. P. and Lopez, J. A. (l999). Latina mothers' involvement in their
children's schooling: The role of maternal education and acculturation. Julian
Samora Research Institute. Working Paper Series.
Nistler, R.J. and Maiers, A. (1999). Exploring home-school connections: A
family literacy perspective on improving urban schools. In Education and Urban
Society, 32 (1) 2-17.
Paratore, J.B., Melzi, G., & Krol-Sinclair, B. (1999). What should we
expect of family literacy? Experiences of Latino children whose parents
participated in an Intergenerational Literacy Project.
Rodgers, J., and Lyon, L. (1999). Hispanic families in our school: knowing
the roots of our growing branches.
Rodriguez-Brown, F.V., Li,-Ran-Fen, Albom, J.B. (1999). Hispanic parents'
awareness and use of literacy-rich environments at home and in the community. In
Education and Urban Society, 32 (1) 41-58.
Romo, H. (1999). Reaching out: best practices for educating Mexican-origin
children and youth. ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools,
Short, D.J. (1998). Secondary newcomer program: helping recent immigrants
prepare for school success. ERIC Clearinghouse on Language and Linguistics:
Center for Applied Linguistics
Snow, C.E., Barnes, W.S., Chandler, J., Goodman, I.R., & Hemphill, L.
(1991) "Unfulfilled expectations: Home and school influences on literacy".
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Sosa, A.S. (1996) Involving Hispanic parents in improving educational
opportunities for their children. The University of Texas at San Antonio
Williams, P., and Lundsteen, S.W. (1997). Home literacy portfolios:
cooperative tools for assessing parents' involvement in their prekindergarten
child's literacy development.