Academic journal article School Community Journal

Effect of Family Involvement Training on the Language Skills of Young Elementary Children from Migrant Families

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Effect of Family Involvement Training on the Language Skills of Young Elementary Children from Migrant Families

Article excerpt

Abstract

This quasi-experimental study (based on parent self-selection) examines the effects of a parent involvement program on kindergarten children's English language skills. This program was implemented as one component of a Migrant Even Start Family Literacy Program. The study was conducted at a rural Midwestern elementary school with 14 kindergarten children of families participating in the parent involvement training program, and 15 kindergarten children from families not participating. This study followed these children through the end of first grade. Findings indicate that by the end of first grade, children from families participating in the parent involvement training program scored significantly higher on language measures than children in the control group. This suggests that equipping migrant families with new abilities to nurture their children's language skills leads to positive language outcomes for their children.

Key Words: parent involvement, race and ethnicity, migrant, early childhood education, family literacy

Introduction

Growing numbers of federal initiatives such as Reading First, Early Reading First, and No Child Left Behind signal the importance of early literacy experiences for young children. With the tremendous growth in the number of English language learning (ELL) students in the United States, a great concern is how best to effectively support students who primarily speak a language other than English. ELL children from low-income families are less likely to enter school with a rich literacy background and are twice as likely as white, English-speaking students to be below grade level in reading (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Targeting this population of ELL children at a young age is crucial, as poor school performance in first grade is a significant predictor of students who will later drop out of school (Alexander, Entwisle, & Kabbani, 2001).

The question becomes, "what strategies might help ameliorate these negative effects?" Preliminary studies have identified that building bridges between home and school (Nathenson-Mejia, 1994) and providing literacy-rich home environments (Denton & West, 2002) are essential to positive outcomes of children. In their meta-analysis of 51 research studies, Henderson and Mapp (2002) found higher student achievement occurred when real partnerships between families and schools existed. These positive working relationships between home and school are especially important for children who are socially and economically disadvantaged (Lin, 2003). Specifically, parent involvement positively influences academic achievement (McNeal, 1999), as well as social-emotional competence (Fantuzzo & McWayne, 2002). In the Third National Even Start Evaluation, St. Pierre et al. (2003) found that parents who more fully participated in parenting education had children who scored more positively on literacy measures. More information is needed to examine how specific parent education curricula are related to kindergarten children's early literacy development, especially for those from migrant backgrounds.

Purpose and Research Questions

This two-year study was designed to evaluate the efficacy of the family involvement component of a Migrant Education Even Start (MEES) family literacy program and its long-term impact on the young elementary children in these families. To measure the impact, approximately half of the sample were children drawn from families participating in the family involvement training, and the other half were children with matched demographics from families not participating in the program. Families were provided training and support during the children's kindergarten year.

Two research questions guided the study: First, does the integration of the kindergarten educational curriculum into a MEES parent education program positively impact the children's language skills through first grade? …

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