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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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This Research Brief was produced for release at the Raising Student Achievement, 2006 National PTA Legislative Conference.

Family involvement promotes school success for every child of every age.


The evidence is clear: Family involvement helps children get ready to enter school, promotes their school success, and prepares youth for college. This Research Brief presents findings from HFRP's ongoing, in-depth review of research and evaluated programs that link family involvement in children's education to student outcomes.

Family involvement helps children get ready to enter school.


Research Findings:

• Children whose parents read to them at home recognize letters of the alphabet sooner than those whose parents do not.1

• Children whose parents teach them how to write words are able to identify letters and connect them to speech sounds.2

• Children whose mothers use complex sentences in their everyday conversations achieve high scores on literacy-related tasks in kindergarten.3

Evaluated Program:

Raising a Reader
Raising a Reader is a program that provides books for children from birth through age 5 and encourages parents to read to their children every day. When parents establish a reading routine with their children, they provide more family bonding time and an opportunity for their children's vocabulary and preliteracy skills to grow. Six independent evaluations show that Raising a Reader improves reading behavior and kindergarten readiness, especially for low-income, non-English speaking families. Begun in California, Raising a Reader has spread to 24 U.S. states and three countries.

Family involvement promotes elementary school children's success.


Research Findings:

• Children in grades K–3 whose parents participate in school activities have high quality work habits and task orientation.4

• Children whose parents provide support with homework perform better in the classroom.5

• Children whose parents explain educational tasks are more likely to participate in class, seek help from the teacher when needed, and monitor their own work.6

Evaluated Program:

Families and Schools Together (FAST)
Families and Schools Together (FAST) is a program designed to build relationships within families and between families and schools to address childhood problems such as school failure, violence, and delinquency. Five experimental studies found that the program made a positive impact on elementary students' health, social skills, behavior, and academic competence and on parents' parenting skills. Begun in Wisconsin, the FAST program is now implemented nationally in 45 U.S. states and internationally in five countries.

Family involvement prepares youth for college.


Research Findings:

• Adolescents whose parents monitor their academic and social activities have lower rates of delinquency and higher rates of social competence and academic growth.7

• Youth whose parents are familiar with college preparation requirements and are engaged in the application process are most likely to graduate high school and attend college.8

• Youth whose parents have high academic expectations and who offer consistent encouragement for college have positive student outcomes.9

Evaluated Program:

Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE)
PIQE's 9-week training course for parents has successfully reduced high school drop out rates and college participation for Latino youth living in California. Specifically, the children of parents who graduated from PIQE in one region of California achieved a high school graduation rate of 93%, compared to the national high school graduation rate for Latinos of 53%.10 Moreover, nearly 80% of the Latino youth whose parents participated in PIQE enrolled in college. This surpasses the national average for college enrollment in the general population of 62%. PIQE is expanding to Texas and Arizona.

Family involvement supports all children, especially those less likely to succeed in school.


Research Findings:

• Low-income African American children whose families maintained high rates of parent participation in elementary school are more likely to complete high school.11

• Low-income African American children with mothers involved in their education showed more self-control in unruly and disorganized classrooms than children whose parents did not provide supportive relationships at home.12

• Latino youth who are academically high achieving have parents who provide encouragement and emphasize the value of education as a way out of poverty.13

Evaluated Program:

Chicago Child-Parent Centers (CPC)
The CPC program served low-income preschoolers through third graders and promoted parent involvement through home visits, classroom volunteer opportunities, workshops and courses, and parent–teacher meetings. Low-income children who participated in CPC were more prepared for kindergarten and less likely to be referred to special education. They also tested higher in eighth grade reading, were more likely to finish high school, and had lower rates of grade retention.14 Family involvement in the CPC program during the early years was associated with greater parent involvement in the elementary school years, which in turn was related with positive student outcomes in high school.15

About HFRP

Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education delivers research evidence and information to a national audience of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers. Through the dissemination of research, HFRP has helped shape effective educational policies and practices for disadvantaged children and youth for over 20 years.

Contact HFRP

HFRP is located at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, 50 Church Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138. Call 617-495-9108, email, or visit

The HFRP Concept of Complementary Learning

HFRP is guided by our concept of complementary learning, based on the conviction that for children and youth to be successful from birth through adolescence, there must be an array of linked learning supports around them. See for resources on two elements of complementary learning: the linkage between families and schools and the linkage between out-of-school time programs and schools.


1 Nord, C. W., Lennon, J., Liu, B., & Chandler, K. (1999). Home literacy activities and signs of children's emerging literacy, 1993 and 1999. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Available at

2 Haney, M. H., & Hill, J. (2004). Relationships between parent-teaching activities and emergent literacy in preschool children. Early Child Development and Care, 17(3), 215–228.

3 Britto, P. R., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2001). Beyond shared book reading: Dimensions of home literacy and low-income African American preschoolers' skills. In J. Brooks-Gunn & P. R. Britto (Eds.), New directions for child and adolescent development: Vol. 92. The role of family literacy environments in promoting young children's emerging literacy skills (pp. 73–93). New York: Jossey-Bass; Tabors, P. O., Roach, K. A., & Snow, C. E. (2001). Home language and literacy environment: Final results. In D. K. Dickinson & P. O. Tabors (Eds.), Beginning literacy with language (pp. 111–138). Cambridge, MA: Paul Brookes Publishing.

4 Izzo, C. V., Weissberg, R. P., Kasprow, W. J., & Fendrich, M. (1999). A longitudinal assessment of teacher perceptions of parent involvement in children's education and school performance. American Journal of Community Psychology, 27(6), 817–839.

5 Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., Battiato, A. C., Walker, J. M. T., Reed, R. P., DeLong, J. M., & Jones, K. P. (2001). Parental involvement in homework. Educational Psychologist, 36, 195–210; Walker, J. M. T., Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., Whetsel, D. R., & Green, C. L. (2004). Parental involvement in homework: A review of current research and its implications for teachers, after school program staff, and parent leaders. Retrieved April 11, 2005, from Harvard University, Harvard Family Research Project website. [Click here to view this article.]

6 Stright, A. D., Neitzel, C., Sears, K. G., & Hoke-Sinex, L. (2001). Instruction begins in the home: Relations between parental instruction and children's self-regulation in the classroom. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(3), 456–466.

7 Catsambis, S. (2001). Expanding knowledge of parental involvement in children's secondary education: Connections with high school seniors' academic success. Social Psychology of Education, 5(2), 149–177; Falbo, T., Lein, L., & Amador, N. A. (2001). Parental involvement during the transition to high school. Journal of Adolescent Research, 16, 511–529; Rankin, B., & Quane, J. M. (2002). Social contexts and urban adolescent outcomes: The interrelated effects of neighborhoods, families, and peers on African-American youth. Social Problems, 49(1), 79–100; Rodriguez, J. L. (2002). Family environment and achievement among three generations of Mexican American high school students. Applied Developmental Science, 6, 88–94; Sartor, C. E., & Youniss, J. (2002). The relationship between positive parental involvement and identity achievement during adolescence. Adolescence, 37, 221–234; Simons-Morton, B. G., & Crump, A. D. (2003). Association of parental involvement and social competence with school adjustment and engagement among sixth graders. Journal of School Health, 73(3), 121–126; Simpson, A. R. (2001). Raising teens: A synthesis of research and a foundation for action. Boston: Center for Health Communication, Harvard School of Public Health. Available at

8 Auerbach, S. (2004). Engaging Latino parents in supporting college pathways: Lessons from a college access program. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education 3(2), 125–145.

9 Ma, X. (2001). Participation in advanced mathematics: Do expectation and influence of students, peers, teachers and parents matter? Contemporary Educational Psychology, 26, 132–146; Trusty, J., Plata, M., & Salazar, C. F. (2003). Modeling Mexican Americans' education expectations: Longitudinal effects of variables across adolescence. Journal of Adolescent Research, 18(2), 131–153.

10 Vidano, G., & Sahafi, M. (2004). Parent Institute for Quality Education: Organization Special Report on PIQE's Performance Evaluation. Available at

11 Barnard, W. M. (2004). Parent involvement in elementary school and educational attainment. Children & Youth Services Review, 26(1), 39–62.

12 Brody, G. H., Dorsey, S., Forehand, R., & Armistead, L. (2002). Unique and protective contributions of parenting and classroom processes to the adjustment of African-American children living in single-parent families. Child Development, 73(1), 274–286.

13 Ceballo, R. (2004). From Barrios to Yale: The role of parenting strategies in Latino families. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 25(2), 171–186; Gandara, P. (1995). Over the ivy walls: The educational mobility of low-income Chicanos. Albany: State University of New York Press.

14 Barnard, 2004; Clements, M. A., Reynolds, A., J., & Hickey, E. (2004). Site-level predictors of children's school and social competence in the Chicago Child-Parent Centers. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 19, 273–296; Graue, E., Clements, M. A., Reynolds, A. J., & Niles, M. D. (2004). More than teacher directed or child initiated: Preschool curriculum type, parent involvement and children's outcomes in the Child-Parent Centers. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12(72), 1–38. Available at; Miedel, W. T., & Reynolds, A. J. (1999). Parent involvement in early intervention for disadvantaged children: Does it matter? Journal of School Psychology, 37(4), 379–402.

15 Ou, S. (2005). Pathways of long-term effects of an early intervention program on educational attainment: Findings from the Chicago longitudinal study. Applied Developmental Psychology, 26(5), 578–611.

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© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project