Numerous studies have documented the importance of parental involvement in literacy activities with their children. One of the National Education Goals stresses the importance of family/child engagement in literacy activities, especially among children who are “at risk” of school failure, in order for all children in the United States to be able to start school ready to learn.45
Table EA 3.1 presents three types of literacy activities that parents may engage in with their children. In 1999, a majority of 3- to 5-year-old children (53 percent) were read to by a parent or other family member every day. Fifty percent of children were regularly told stories in 1999 (three or more times a week), a substantial increase from 1991 levels (39 percent).
Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin.46 There are substantial differences in all literacy activities by race and Hispanic origin; for example, in 1999, white children were more likely to be read to every day (61 percent) than black children (41 percent) or Hispanic children (33 percent). Similarly, white children (53 percent) were more likely to be told a story frequently than either black or Hispanic children (45 and 40 percent respectively) (see Table EA 3.1). Also, more white children visited a library at least once in the past month in 1999 (39 percent) than either black children (35 percent) or Hispanic children (25 percent). These differences have been fairly stable over time.
Differences by Socioeconomic Status. Children in families living at or above the poverty threshold are much more likely to be engaged in literacy activities on a regular basis than are children who live in poverty; for example, in 1999, 58 percent of children in nonpoor families were read to every day by a parent or other family member, compared with 38 percent of children in poor families (see Figure EA 3.1). There are also substantial differences in literacy activities by mother’s education level. For example, about one-fifth (18 percent) of children whose mothers did not have a high school diploma visited a library once or more in the past month, compared with 30 percent of children whose mothers had graduated high school and 50 percent whose mothers were college graduates (see Table EA 3.1).
Differences by Family Structure. Children in two-parent families were more likely to participate in all three types of literacy activities than children who lived with one or no parent.
Differences by Mother’s Employment Status. Children whose mothers were employed 35 hours or more per week were slightly less likely to engage in any of the three literacy activities than children whose mothers were either working part-time or not working.
45 National Education Goals Panel. 1997. (Goal 1, p. xiv).
46 Estimates of whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.
Table EA 3.1 Percentage of 3- through 5-year-oldsa in the United States who have participated in literacy activities with a family member, by child and family characteristics: 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, and 1999
|Read to every day
||Told a story at least three
times a week
| Visited a library at least once
in the past month
|Race and Hispanic originb|
|At or above poverty||—||56||62||61||58||39||44||53||58||52||38||42||43||41||40|
|One or no parent||—||46||49||46||42||37||41||46||47||44||23||30||30||29||29|
|Mother’s education leveld|
|Less than high school||—||37||40||37||38||34||37||39||47||36||16||22||20||19||18|
|Vocational/technical or some college||—||57||64||62||53||41||45||53||55||52||40||44||42||41||40|
|Mother’s employment statusd|
|35 hours or more per week||—||52||55||54||48||37||43||49||53||48||30||34||35||32||—|
|Less than 35 hours per week||—||56||63||59||55||40||45||53||56||55||41||47||46||39||—|
|Not in labor force||—||55||60||59||60||42||43||50||56||60||38||37||42||40||40|
a Estimates are based on children who have yet to enter kindergarten.
b Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Estimates for whites and blacks exclude persons of Hispanic origin.
c Parents include any combination of a biological, adoptive, step-, and foster mother and/or father. No parents in the household indicates that the child is living with nonparent guardians (e.g., grandparents).
d Children without mothers in the home are not included in estimates dealing with mother’s education or mother’s employment status. A mother is defined as a biological mother, adoptive mother, stepmother, foster mother, or female guardian (e.g., grandmother) who resides in the home with the child.
Sources: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, and 1999 National Household Education Survey (unpublished data); Tabulated by U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics; Estimates of “read to every day” as published in Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 1998, Table ED1.
Figure EA 3.1 Percentage of 3- through 5-year-olds in the United States who have participated in literacy activities with a family member, by poverty status: 1999
Sources: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1999 National Household Education Survey (unpublished data); Tabulated by U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics; Estimates of “read to every day” as published in Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 1998, Table ED1.
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