Academic journal article School Community Journal

Six Years Later: Effect of Family Involvement Training on the Language Skills of Children from Migrant Families

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Six Years Later: Effect of Family Involvement Training on the Language Skills of Children from Migrant Families

Article excerpt

Abstract

This six year follow-up study to the previously published quasi-experimental study on this group of children and their migrant families examines the effects of a parent involvement program on kindergarten children's families. Parents in the original study participated in sessions available throughout their child's kindergarten year that helped them engage their children in academic activities linked to their children's curriculum in school. These parent involvement sessions were implemented as one component of a Migrant Education Even Start family literacy program. The study was conducted at a rural Midwestern elementary school with 22 kindergarten children from families participating in the parent involvement training program, and 28 kindergarten children from families not participating. This longitudinal study first followed these children through the end of first grade. Findings indicated 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. Now researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center have followed these children through 5th or 6th grade and have collected state reading assessment scaled scores. Results demonstrate that children in the treatment group again scored significantly higher 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 and lasting reading outcomes for their children.

Key words: parents, involvement, race, ethnicity, migrant, early childhood education, reading, literacy, longitudinal research, family, families, Even Start, quasi-experimental research, control group, intervention, effects

Introduction

Our interest in this research topic began eight years ago when then growing numbers of federal initiatives such as Reading First, Early Reading First, and No Child LeftBehind signaled 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 was and continues to be 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 English-speaking, White students to be below grade level in reading (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Targeting this population of ELLs at a young age is crucial as poor school performance in first grade is a significant predictor of students who will drop out of school (Alexander, Entwisle, & Kabbani, 2001).

The question becomes: What strategies might help ameliorate these negative effects? The previous publication of this study of children's performance at the end of first grade found that providing parent involvement training to families resulted in significantly higher language standard scores for children in treatment families at the end of first grade compared to children in the control group (St. Clair & Jackson, 2006). Parenting quality is predictive of long-term academic achievement of students and of their social and behavioral progress in school (Belsky et al., 2007). Numerous other studies have noted that literacy-rich home environments (Denton & West, 2002) are essential to positive outcomes of children and that parent involvement positively influences social-emotional competence (Fantuzzo & McWayne, 2002). 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). Findings from a study of four high performing school districts with large populations of migrant families suggest that parental involvement of the most marginalized students is critical to their success (Lopez, Scribner, & Mahitivanichcha, 2001). …

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