Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

U-CAN READ: Literacy Intervention in Years 3-10: A Macro/micro Vision of a Parent Education Program

Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

U-CAN READ: Literacy Intervention in Years 3-10: A Macro/micro Vision of a Parent Education Program

Article excerpt

Collaborating with parents to support the literacy success of their children could be the best available option we have for reaching those students too often regarded as 'falling through the gaps'. The research literature stresses we still have a long way to go in educating parents effectively and also in addressing the needs of struggling readers in the middle years. Cunningham and Allington (2003) point out that most parents are unsure of how to teach reading or help their children with literacy development. Research by Senechal (2006) involving 1174 families highlights the positive impact of parental involvement on children's reading acquisition. He explains that when parents were taught specific literacy skills to use with their children, the programs were twice as effective as those where parents listened to their children read and six times more effective than those where parents were encouraged to read to their children. In addition, Project ROAR (Reach Out And Read) indicates that parents are eager to help their children and when instructed in appropriate literacy activities can positively affect the academic progress of their children (Gilliam et al., 2004).

U-CAN READ is a parent education program aimed at developing children's literacy skills by providing parents and carers with ideas, knowledge and support. It is a unique program for the following reasons:

1. It is a joint project of ACT Department of Employment and Training and the University of Canberra and housed in The National Capital Centre for Literacy Research (NCCLR).

2. It is specifically tailored to meet the needs of students in Years 3-10. With the emphasis of most intervention programs on the early years, according to Wasik (2004) few parent programs address the needs of children in the primary grades and beyond.

3. It provides a multi-dimensional approach to literacy intervention. Parents are educated in ways to support their children at home as well as given one-on-one assistance by a literacy advisor for up to twelve weeks following the seminars. Through a series of five two-hour seminars over five weeks and one reflective session, parents are given knowledge and strategies to support their children at home. Parents are empowered to be the supporters of literacy success.

The Literacy Centre operates five days a week with extended hours depending on the needs of families. A minimum of eighty families are catered for annually. U-CAN READ is based on current best practices in literacy interventions and research in parent education. Currently, U-CAN READ employs a Director, two literacy advisors and an administrative assistant. The literacy advisors are experienced literacy teachers employed by ACT Department of Education and Training and in what follows they describe their experiences of working with middle years students in the program.

U-CAN READ works in partnership with teachers, parents and children. In order to attend U-CAN READ, students must be:

* enrolled in Years 3-10;

* experiencing reading difficulties;

* enrolled in ACT schools;

* referred by a principal or school counsellor.

U-CAN READ operates on a number of guiding principles. The program aims to:

1. Support parents to work collaboratively with their children and NCCLR staff for literacy success;

2. Demonstrate and model literacy strategies that are evidence-based, self-sustaining and supportive of life-long readers;

3. Respect and accommodate the knowledge, experience and diverse literacy backgrounds and experiences of parents, children and families;

4. Support parents and children to build relationships that enhance successful learning;

5. Provide a quality and professional education program based on up-to-date international research;

6. Make available quality literacy resources in an environment that is conducive to learning;

7. …

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