Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. EA 3.1.a Family-child engagement in literacy activities

04/01/1997

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 familychild engagement in literacy activities, especially among children who are "at risk" of school failure, in order for all U.S. children to be able to start school ready to learn.

Table EA 3.1.A presents three types of literacy activities that parents may engage in with their children. In 1996, a majority of 3- to 5-year-old children (57 percent) were read to by a parent or other family member every day, showing a slight increase from 1993 (53 percent). More than a third of children (37 percent) visited a library at least once in the past month. About 55 percent of children were regularly told stories (3 or more times a week), a substantial increase from 1991 (39 percent).

Differences by Race and Ethnicity.31 There are substantial differences in all literacy activities by race and ethnicity. For example, in 1996, white children were more likely to be read to every day (64 percent) than black children (44 percent) or Hispanic children (39 percent). These differences have been fairly stable over time. There were also differences in library visits by race and ethnicity. Black and Hispanic children were also less likely to be told a story frequently (47 percent) than were white children (59 percent) (see Table EA 3.1.A).

Differences by Family Type. 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 Socioeconomic Status. Children in families living above the poverty threshold are much more likely to be engaged in literacy activities on a regular basis than children who live in poverty. For example, in 1996, 61 percent of children in nonpoor families (above the poverty threshold) were read to every day by a parent or other family member, compared to 46 percent of children in poor families (at or below the poverty level) (see Figure EA 3.1.A). There are also substantial differences in literacy activities by mothers education level. For example, about one-fifth (19 percent) of children whose mothers did not have a high school diploma visited a library once or more in the past month, compared to more than half (56 percent) of children whose mothers were college graduates (see Table EA 3.1.A).

Differences by Mothers 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.
 

Figure EA 3.1.A  
Percentage of 3- to 5-Year-Olds Who Have Participated in Literacy Activities with a Family Member, by Poverty Status: 1996  

EA3_1A.GIF

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1996 National Household Education Survey.
 
 

Table EA 3.1.A 
Percentage of 3- to 5-Year-Oldsa Who Have Participated in Literacy Activities with a Family Member, by Child and Family Characteristics: 1991, 1993, 1995, and 1996 

 
 
Read to Every Day 
Told a story 
3 or more 
times a week 
Visited a library 
at least once 
in the past month 
 
 
 
 
     
1991 
1993 
1995 
1996 
1991 
1993 
1995 
1996 
1991 
1993 
1995 
1996 
     
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total 
 
53 
58 
57 
39 
43 
50 
55 
35 
38 
39 
37 
 
Gender
 
 
Male
 
51 
57 
56 
37 
43 
49 
55 
34 
38 
37 
37 
 
 
Female
 
54 
59 
57 
41 
43 
51 
56 
36 
38 
41 
36 
 
Race/Ethnicity
 
 
White, non-Hispanic
 
59 
65 
64 
40 
44 
53 
59 
39 
42 
43 
41 
 
 
Black, non-Hispanic
 
39 
43 
44 
34 
39 
42 
47 
25 
29 
32 
31 
 
 
Hispanic
 
37 
38 
39 
38 
38 
42 
47 
23 
26 
27 
27 
 
Poverty Statusb
 
 
Non-poor
 
56 
62 
61 
39 
44 
53 
58 
38 
42 
43 
41 
 
 
Poor
 
44 
48 
46 
38 
40 
44 
49 
26 
29 
30 
28 
 
Family Type
 
 
Two parents
 
55 
61 
61 
39 
44 
52 
59 
38 
41 
43 
40 
 
 
One or no parent
 
46 
49 
46 
37 
41 
46 
47 
23 
30 
30 
29 
 
Mothers Educationc
 
 
Less than high school
 
37 
40 
37 
34 
37 
39 
47 
16 
22 
20 
19 
 
 
High school/GED
 
48 
48 
49 
38 
41 
48 
54 
29 
31 
33 
31 
 
 
Vocational/ 
technical or 
some college
 
 
 
 
57 
64 
62 
41 
45 
53 
55 
40 
44 
42 
41 
 
 
College graduate
 
71 
76 
77 
42 
49 
55 
64 
55 
56 
57 
56 
 
Mothers Employment Statusc
 
 
35 hours or more per week
 
52 
55 
54 
37 
43 
49 
53 
30 
34 
35 
32 
 
 
Less than 35 hours per week
 
56 
63 
59 
40 
45 
53 
56 
41 
47 
46 
39 
 
 
Not in labor force
 
55 
60 
59 
42 
43 
50 
56 
38 
37 
42 
40 
 
Notes: aEstimates are based on children who have yet to enter kindergarten.  
bChildren were classified as non-poor (living above the poverty threshold) or poor (living below the poverty threshold), based on family size and income. See Wright, D., Hausken, E.G., and West, J. (1994). Family-Child Engagement in Literacy Activities: Changes in Participation Between 1991 and 1993. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.  
cChildren without mothers in the home are not included in estimates dealing with mothers education or mothers 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.  

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1991, 1993, 1995, and 1996  National Household Education Survey.

 

31 Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.
 

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