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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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About Family Involvement Research Digests

Harvard Family Research Project's (HFRP) Family Involvement Research Digests summarize research written and published by non-HFRP authors and/or written by HFRP authors but published by organizations other than HFRP.  To learn more about the research summarized in this digest, please contact the author ar the address below. For help citing this article, click here.

Research Background

Parent involvement is linked to children's school readiness. Research shows that greater parent involvement in children's learning positively affects the child's school performance, including higher academic achievement (McNeal, 1999; Scribner, Young, & Pedroza, 1999; Sui-Chu & Willms, 1996; Trusty, 1998; Yan & Lin, 2002) and greater social and emotional development (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997; Fantuzzo & McWayne, 2002). Simple interactions, such as reading to young children, may lead to greater reading knowledge and skills (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). And, children with richer home literacy environments demonstrate higher levels of reading knowledge and skills at kindergarten entry (Nord, Lennon, Liu, & Chandler, 2000). Parent involvement outside of home, such as participation in extracurricular activities (e.g., concerts, sports, scouts), relates to their reading, general knowledge, and mathematics knowledge and skills (Reaney, Denton, & West, 2002). However, more information is needed to examine what specific types of parent involvement are related to kindergartners' early literacy and how the relationship varies for children from diverse backgrounds.

The purpose of the study is to contribute to an increased understanding of the relationship between different practices of parent involvement and kindergarten children's early literacy. Two research questions guided the study: What types of parenting practices are related to children's early literacy in reading, math, and general knowledge performance at the end of the kindergarten year? How does the relationship between parent involvement and early literacy vary for children from different racial/ethnic and income backgrounds?

Research Method

Data for this study came from Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998–1999.¹ The ECLS-K data include items that represent the components of school, family, and community connections, and therefore is appropriate to answer questions in this study. The dependent variables are children's early literacy skills—reading, math, and general knowledge achievement at the end of the kindergarten year. The independent variables, made up of five parent involvement composites, are grouped into three dimensions: (1) involvement at home, including home literacy environment and home cognitive stimulation; (2) involvement at school; and (3) involvement outside of the home, including extracurricular activities and use of community resources. A series of Ordinary Least Squares Regressions were conducted to examine the relationship between the parent involvement practices of 16,083 first-time kindergartners and early literacy, while controlling for background variables such as child gender, family SES, and family type.

Research Findings

Among the five parent involvement composites, school involvement was significantly associated with early literacy (reading, math, and general knowledge) for almost all children (except for Asian children's reading achievement). Next were home resources, which predicted almost all kindergartners' early literacy skills, except for Asian children's reading and math. The third was extracurricular activities, which were positively associated with the early literacy achievement for whites, Hispanics, and above-poverty-level children, and for the achievement of Asian children in reading and math; however, it was not significant for African-American and low-income children in early literacy, and for Asian children in math.

The most important finding is that, among all the parent involvement practices, the percentage of variance explained was greater for minority children than for European-American children and for poor children than for the non-poor children. Although educational resources at home were highly circumscribed in both low-income and minority (especially black and Hispanic) families, the good news is that a stronger relationship was found among school involvement, home resources, and early literacy for these children. The findings support the literature that a positive working relationship between home and school appears important for all children, particularly for children whose families are socially or economically disadvantaged (e.g., Comer & Haynes, 1991; Dauber & Epstein, 1993; Nord, Lennon, Liu, & Chandler, 2000; Reaney, Denton, & West, 2002).

Implications for Preservice and In-Service Teachers

The above findings suggest that training and practice need to focus on creating school involvement opportunities and an awareness of the impact of home resources, extracurricular activities, and ethnicity on parent involvement and child outcomes.

Because home-school involvement is important for young children, particularly for children from disadvantaged families, teacher education programs should promote preservice teachers' awareness of the bidirectional interactions of home-school partnership. In-service teachers also may benefit from training that focuses on reflective practice. For example, teachers can examine how parents believe they can become involved in the school and the extent to which those perceptions match teacher expectations. This type of assessment and reflection can suggest teacher-initiated opportunities for parents' school involvement.

Implications for Schools and Communities

School personnel can enhance home-school collaboration by (1) using parent involvement research as a foundation for implementing empirically validated practices, especially among low-income and minority families; (2) actually becoming involved in important parent activities, such as parent training; and (3) engaging in reflective practice to assess the efficacy of specific parent outreach and collaboration efforts.

Communities can contribute to home-school partnership by promoting awareness of parent involvement in school and supporting school efforts to reach families. Linkages between community resources and schools can also be strengthened to create continuity across the informal and formal learning environments of children through extracurricular activities.


This research presents preliminary evidence that parents' involvement at school, particularly among children from socially or economically disadvantaged families, may be related to their higher literacy skills at the end of the kindergarten year. The study suggests that educators work with parents to organize opportunities for their involvement in school. In this process, educators are wise to understand parents' needs and views of education, and to reflect on their own motivation and desired outcomes for home-school initiatives.

¹ This is an ongoing national data collection effort by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Beginning in the fall of 1998, 22,000 kindergartners were sampled to participate in the study and are being followed through spring fifth grade (spring 2005). Guided by an ecological perspective, the study provides detailed information on children's early school experiences, in which the child's physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development is considered across multiple contexts, including the home, classroom, school, and community.


Bredekamp, S., & Copple, C. (1997). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Comer, J. P., & Haynes, N. M. (1991). Parent involvement in schools: An ecological approach. The Elementary School Journal, 91(3), 271–277.

Dauber, S. L., & Epstein, J. L. (1993). Parents' attitudes and practices of involvement in inner city elementary and middle schools. In N. F. Chavkin (Ed.), Families and schools in a pluralistic society (pp. 53–71). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Fantuzzo, J., & McWayne, C. (2002). The relationship between peer-play interactions in the family context and dimensions of school readiness for low-income preschool children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(1), 79–87.

McNeal, R. B., Jr. (1999). Parental involvement as social capital: Differential effectiveness on science achievement, truancy, and dropping out. Social Forces, 78(1), 117–144.

Nord, C. W., Lennon, J., Liu, B., & Chandler, K. (2000). Home literacy activities and signs of children's emerging literacy, 1993 and 1999 [NCES Publication 2000-026]. Washington DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

Reaney, L. M., Denton, K. L., & West, J. (2002, April). Enriching environments: The relationship of home educational activities, extracurricular activities and community resources to kindergartners' cognitive performance. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.

Scribner, J. D., Young, M. D., & Pedroza, A. (1999). Building collaborative relationships with parents. In P. Reyes, J. D. Scribner, & A. P. Scribner (Eds.), Lessons from high-performing Hispanic schools: Creating learning communities (pp. 36–60). New York: Teachers College Press.

Shore, R. (1998). Ready Schools: A report of the Goal 1 Ready Schools Resource Group. Washington, DC: The National Education Goals Panel.

Snow, K., Burns, M. S., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Sui-Chu, E. H., & Willms, J. D. (1996). Effects of parent involvement on eighth-grade achievement. Sociology of Education, 69(2), 126–141.

Trusty, J. (1999). Family influences on educational expectations of late adolescents. The Journal of Educational Research, 91(5), 260–270.

Yan, W., & Lin, Q. (2002, April). Parent involvement and children's achievement: Race and income differences. Paper presented at the annual conference of American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.

Dr. Qiuyun Lin
Elementary/Early Education
Mount Aloysius College
Cresson, PA 16630
Email :

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