Adult literacy programs that are student-centered are more effective than traditional teacher-centered
approaches. Adult learners are empowered by the ability to make choices within their reading, writing
and math upgrading and to use their own lives as the context for the instruction.
Many adult learners have children and many adult learners come to literacy programs because they want
to be able to read to their children, support them in their school work and read parenting materials to
improve their parenting skills. It may be useful, before planning a family literacy learning activity with
your student, to consider the following:
1. Discussion: Talk about your student’s family literacy needs with them. It probably won’t surprise
you that a number of adults with literacy issues state, on first meeting a program staff member that they
need to improve their skills to be able to read to their children or write a letter to the school. So talk
to your student about their children and keep an open mind. Look for opportunities for family literacy that
allow you and your student to think outside the box. Perhaps your student would like to take the phonics
techniques they are learning in the lessons and work with their child to build their reading fluency using
the same techniques.
2. Relevance and Resources: What does your student need? Would they like to be able to read to their
child? To help with homework? Maybe they need to find information on nutrition or parenting and discipline.
Remember, family literacy is a broad term that covers activities ranging from a parent reading to their
child, to parents sharing family stories and history. Remember the SCIL approach to tutoring your student:
the lessons should be directly related to the student’s needs and individualized to the plan of learning
that the student has agreed upon. Adults learn differently than children; if you don’t capture the interest
of your student in discussion they will loose interest.
The next step is to locate the relevant resources. EYLE is building a collection of children’s books
and collating volunteer resources for tutoring a student with family literacy needs. The Internet and the
local library are also good places to track down resources for family literacy. As well, your student may
need help reading school related information or understanding the content of a book on discipline, child
psychology, or nutrition. The material may be at level that your student couldn’t possibly read; however,
this doesn’t mean that a shared reading of the material and lesson activities related to it isn’t an
opportunity to reinforce your student’s interest, build further lesson activities and deepen their
knowledge of subjects related to the family. Lesson activities could include vocabulary building,
language experience and written conversation.
3. Time and Lesson Planning: How much time does your student want to spend on family literacy
related activities? They may not be something that the student wants to work on in every lesson.
Make sure that you plan family literacy activities with your student’s feedback. The Student Centered
approach puts your student in the driver’s seat so to speak. If your student isn’t giving you a lot of
feedback on suggested learning activities than move on to something else.