Family Literacy Projects

Some of the most promising practices identified in the literature are the initiatives that focus on parents and children working together to learn English and to capitalize on first language and first culture knowledge to build literacy. Sample models are described below.

Dual Language Showcase

Thornwood Public School in Mississauga Ontario engaged in a project to create dual-language book bags, comprising of dual language books and multilingual audio tapes, for use at school and at home. Student/parent/community volunteers recorded the multilingual stories on audio cassettes. Non-English speaking parents were able to enjoy reading the stories to their children in their own language and elaborating on the ideas, values, skills, and concepts introduced in this “expanded” home literacy program. This site provides an explanation of the project, links to dual-language resources and samples of student-written dual language books.

The Pambazuka Project

The Pambazuka Project offered by World Relief in Chicago combines adult ESL, early childhood classes and family literacy. While parents attend intensive adult ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, their children ages 1-5 attend the early childhood education program, which includes age appropriate pre-literacy activities as well as art and play therapy. Once a week, parents attend family literacy activities instead of regular English classes. This includes a parenting group, parent-and-child together activities, and  field trips to cultural and educational sites. Once are enrolled in school,  WR-C provides twice weekly after-school programming, focusing on developing academic and social skills in a safe and nurturing environment.

The Intergenerational Literacy Program

The Literacy for Life project in Vancouver was a research project for low-literacy adults and their 3-5 year old children.  For two hours twice a week over several months the adults engaged in authentic literacy instruction; i.e. real-life texts for real purposes such as recipes, greeting cards, etc.) Their children participated in an early literacy program with developmentally appropriate activities such as painting, playing games, making art projects and listening to stories.

The HIPPY Program

Home Instruction for Parents of Pre-School Youngsters is a national initiative is a home-based education program that teaches parents to be their preschool children’s first teacher and prepare their 3-5 year olds for school. Home visitors ( other parents) bring materials and guide families through the activities via role play. The parent works through the activities, reading to, playing with and helping their child. These activities assist with language and discrimination skills, literacy, numeracy, problem solving and motor skills while creating good relationships between the child and parent. A number of immigrant serving agencies are employing immigrant women to work with families in their own communities.

‘How-to’Videos in Your Language

TVO and Hippy Canada have recently collaborated to develop a series of instructional videos for newcomer parents. The videos help parents teach their preschool children about language, math, and science. The videos are available in nine languages.

 Children’s Digital Library Project 

The mission of the International Children’s Digital Library Foundation is to support the world’s children in becoming effective members of the global community by making children’s literature available online free of charge. It is building a digital library to support children and adults in exploring this literature through innovative technologies.

Family Treasures and Grandma’s Soup: Dual Language Book Project


The Family Treasures book project was a joint effort between the University of Calgary Faculty of Education and the ECS team at Almadina Language Charter Academy, Calgary.  For the project, parents told their children family stories that were interesting and that expanded their mother tongue vocabulary. The vocabulary was linked to an object that had family and cultural relevance—a family ‘treasure’. The child brought the object to class, where staff supported the story-telling in English in small group work. The stories were written in English and the first language of each child.  A description and extensive lesson plans are available.